Artists, Influencing Me, Photography

Influencing Me – Robert Mapplethorpe

You had to know that eventually I would get around to doing one of these on Robert Mapplethorpe.  His black and white photographs are an inspiration to anyone who loves black and white imagery.  He also worked in colour, but is more known for the black and white images.

Mapplethorpe 1He also photographed a lot of flowers.  Which is the part of his art practice that I have always enjoyed the most.  The flowers were nearly always quite simple specimens.

Mapplethorpe 2He manipulated the flowers to suit the images he wanted.  Just because it was a flower and would look normal in most images, didn’t mean that he had to do the same thing.  He made the flowers work for the image that he wanted to create.

Mapplethorpe 3There is a simplicity in his work, something that I have tried to achieve as well.  He doesn’t let the box that contains the image get cluttered with unnecessary props.

Mapplethorpe 4You get to see the beauty of the flower and what it has to offer.

Mapplethorpe 5When he does use props they are used to help the image in creating lines that work for the flowers he is photographing.

I think for me it is all about the lines, which also works with my architectural images, and when I photograph flowers, I usually look for simple flowers that have beautiful lines and a simple elegance.

Cole 1One of my images, and I think you would have to agree that there is a definite Mapplethorpe influence in it.  The trick, I believe, is finding the right perfect flower.

Detail of Death 3There are those lines again.  I like looking for those.  I have to say that I am attracted to many of the same flowers as Mapplethorpe.  I don’t think I have to do the same images, but it is a good idea to try and imitate when you first start out.  It is a fantastic way of learning.  I know I have said that before, but I still think so.

First comes imitation, then influence, then developing your own style.  Learning to be an artist is an interesting experience.

I know this is just the way he influences me, I am sure other people find he influences them in different ways, if so, then please comment and let other people know as well.  I would enjoy hearing them as well.


  1. These are exquisite and at least as good as any Mapplethorpe. Trying to emulate people like Mapplethorpe (or anyone who we admire and respect) is a great learning experience.

  2. Reblogged this on Camino a la voz del corazón and commented:
    Dejar de existir

    Convertirse en la nada.
    Disfrazarse de una masa negra
    inhabitable, inexistente.
    Tener la capacidad
    de no respirar, de no ver, no hacer,
    de no odiar, amar, o aborrecer.
    Convertirse en la nada,
    la nada de nadie y la de todos,
    la nada que nadie recuerde.
    Perder la capacidad
    de pensar, de sufrir, querer,
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    Joel Vargas.

  3. I won’t lie…I wasn’t familiar with his work but love it and yours! I think you saw the photos I posted yesterday; I took one of a red poppy blowing in the wind. But when I was editing, I decided to make it black and white and bump the contrast and, wow! Became my favorite instantly! Maybe I was a Mapplethorpe fan and didn’t know it ;) Keep it up!

    • You know you will have to go and check out his work in more detail now. He is dead now, but there is a website dedicated to him.

  4. That’s where I’m busy with; flowers!!!
    I love them and at this stage I’m busy with a serie of new flowers i.e. I take several flowers apart in photoshop and of the different elements I make a new one.. Wonderful flower photography of Maplethorpe and you!!!

  5. The shadows and contrast are what strike me. There is so much unseen work here to get that right. That is the artist at work.

  6. Calla lilies were my favorite flower when I was growing up.

    The tulips made me gasp, they are so beautiful.

    Yours is amazing. The concave curve with the lines reminds me of a lock of hair.

    I learned so much from your comments on his art work.


  7. The controversy around some of his work really overshadowed his gift. I know people who know nothing about art but if I said his name they certainly had an opinion. The fact is he was brilliant.

  8. It’s funny you should post this today, I went to see his photos at the Getty today. I saw the top photo and the flowers in the bowl. along with the Patti Smith portrait used on “Horses.” I like your lilies very much.

    • I am so jealous, we are very limited with what we get to see here. I would love to see some of his work for real.

      • the focus on the top lily was a little soft in the print–I’m so used to seeing digital images, that caught my eye. his lighting is gorgeous. I really love yours though. I’ve been shooting flowers in local gardens and none of the flowers are perfect. Sometimes they are even a little dirty, and it’s hard to avoid clutter. I’d like to try studio shooting someday.

      • You should try it one day Pat, it really isn’t hard and if you are shooting and intending it to be black and white then lighting is easy. If you ever decide to try drop me a line and I will give you some tips.

  9. Thanks for sharing Mapethorpe’s flower images, Leanne. I used to work for his printers retouching some of his portrait photos and these are new to me.

    • Mapplethorpe would have been surprised, and I always hoped appalled, by some of the retouching we were asked to do…!

    • OMG that is so amazing, must have been wonderful to work on his prints, Did you ever get to meet him?

      • Funny to have worked for months on his very large photographs, beautifully printed and absurdly retouched, and still not meet him, especially in the small town of Manhattan where you can meet anybody! Very reclusive, but a powerful vision!

  10. I came across Mapplethorpe when I read Just Kids. Fascinating character and these flowers ( including yours) are gorgeous. You should check out some of Steve Gingold’s flower work. I bought his exhibition photo of a Painted Trillium last year. Gorgeous.

  11. Great choice of photographs of Mapplethorpe’s still lifes. Thanks Leanne, good to open up a discussion about influences on our work. I think that it’s also worth looking at Irving Penn’s work, still lifes and portraits. Penn came to mind immediately I saw your post. I think he is acknowledged as influencing Mapplethorpe both in still life work and portraiture, although to me Penn’s still lifes of flowers seem almost botanical in approach, a little like the artist Peirre-Joseph Redoute.

  12. Love the photos, very nicely executed. I am also a huge fan of black and white photography, it can say so much with subtle cues.

  13. Franco says

    Beautiful images, I love the second one, the flower pictured as a lamp. And the one with the tulips in the black bowl for the richness of tonality.
    Your first image I prefer.

  14. Love those photos! Thank you for liking my blog post Visit to King Estate Winery: Tour, Tasting, and Romance.

  15. Mapplethorpe has been influential in my feelings of what makes a great photograph. His use of shadows, lines, texture are what I aspire to.


  17. ☆ MagicAperture says

    I love Mapplethorpe stuff, especially the nude portraits I have to confess! His work is so pinpoint sharp. He inspires me too!

  18. One name comes to mind: Patti Smith (picture on the cover of ‘Horses’ by Mapplethorpe).

  19. Beautiful pictures of nature and architecture – I love all the lines, so much more visible in architecture, but beautifully captured in nature. Thanks for visiting my site as well!

  20. yosport28 says

    I really like the clean lines and contrasting look in these photos. Definitely checking out the website.

  21. Adore your take on Mapplethorpe’s flowers – well done. I especially love the one with the calla lily’s upturned petal tip – lovely lines and contrast!!!

  22. Absolutely beautiful pictures, Leanne – some of the best I’ve seen from you I think. Gorgeous! And, yes, Mapplethorpe. Excellent images! Adrian

  23. Cynthia says

    “simple elegance” is a great description. Your flowers are beautiful. I really appreciate how you are sharing your influences. This post is inspiring me to revisit Mapplethorpe with fresh eyes.

    • I would love to be able to do that, but I get so many requests for the same thing, and unfortunately I just don’t have the time to do it. My own work has got very busy lately, I hardly have time to do my own blog now.

  24. I think the apparent simplicity is a product of an ability to spot and appreciate form first and then light and texture. At a dinner table, a NY fashion designer described someone as having a beautiful penis, which was both flippant and sincere, and, I suspect, arises (no pun intended) from the same appreciation Mapplethorpe had for form, including male forms and cala lilies which includes a representation of the male form. It all starts with an appreciation for it, which you have demonstrated in your work.

  25. Modernist photographers can teach a lot of us today about the use of line and form and light, shadow. Mapplethorpe certainly used all of these to great effect in both his still life’s and in his nudes. Great post.

  26. These are quite beautiful and he was a very talented photographer. It is just a shame he had to do some of the portrait work that he did – I found some to be quite offensive.

    • I must admit, I was always more interested in the flowers and have really looked at his other stuff.

  27. I agree the lines are beautiful, but I also really love your light. It accentuates the lines and the depth so nicely.

  28. Pingback: A photo | RealPlus Photography

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