American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe would have celebrated his seventieth birthday this year. It’s impossible to fathom the loss that his premature death had cost not only the genre of photography but the entire world of art. Like the great iconoclasts of yore, Mapplethorpe deftly employed the classical traditions of the medium and applied it to subjects that caused even the most sophisticated among us to bat an eye. His brilliance with lighting and composition set the stage for contemplation of more provocative ideas, subverting the way in which beauty dazzled the mind t make us reconsider our beliefs and prejudices.
Like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, Mapplethorpe is a photographer’s photographer, pushing the formal elements to the furthest reaches of beyond. In doing so, he was able to transcend the boundaries between commercial and fine art. In the same vein, Juergen Teller has built a body of work and a reputation for operating in both worlds without corrupting either side of the equation. There exists a natural affinity between both photographers: the drive to excel.
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Photo: Robert Mapplethorpe Madeline Stowe, 1982 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London