While studying August Sander I started looking at Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe’s work is somewhat edgy, looking at the human form and in some cases having the homoerotic feel to them. Non the less his work has a powerful edge to it that is rooted in the work of Sander and others.
One of his most haunting images is the one he took of himself some time after being diagnosed with HIV, he pictures himself against a black background holding a skull cane, the black shirt he is wearing blends into the background making Mapplethorpe’s head appear to float alongside the deaths head of his cane, I wonder if he is deliberately pulling so many death metaphors together in one image, even his own visage looks a bit like a death mask, gaunt as it is from his illness. It is almost paying tribute to the fate he knew awaited him at the time of this photograph.
Saying this the black dark key style was common to Mapplethorpe’s work and does not always seem to convey the same level of doom, for instance the male nudes he shot seem to revere the male form from their low key background and because many are of well muscled and athletic individuals they seem to convey heath rather than death. To this end I think that the sick face of Mapplethorpe in the former image is responsible for the felling that the image seems to convey.
I collected a number of images from Robert Mapplethorpe here on Pinterest