In Flowers: Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe is best known for his photographs of the nude male and sexually explicit gay imagery from the 70’s and 80’s. But these are only part of his oeuvre, which includes among other works some great fashion photography and still life.

Mapplethorpe’s images were produced not from a desire to shock or titillate, but from a search for the unexpected, for things he had never seen before. And his skills as a photographer, and his immaculate understanding of form, light and shadow, ensured that every composition of his produced a beautiful, sensual image; whether he was photographing a naked body or a flower in a vase.

Here are our favourites from Mapplethorpe The Complete Flowers.

Irises, 1986 (Image Source:


Anemone, 1989 (Image Source:


Hyacinth, 1987 (Image Source:


Double Jack in the Pulpit, 1988 (Image Source:


Tulip, 1984 (


Poppy, 1988 (Image Source:


Iris, 1982 (Image Source:


<i>Rose</i>, 1977
Rose, 1977 (Image Source:


Tulips, 1988 (Image Source:


Tulips, 1987 (Image Source:


In the main essay in this book by Herbert Muschamp, he says, ‘Mapplethorpe expects his flowers to be more than pretty. His lilies must toil, spin and impersonate Baudelaire. His orchids, roses and even his daisies must know how to put on mysterious aspects. They are Method flowers. He counts on them to project intrigue, hints of danger, and other noir effects. Ambiguity is essential; their shadows will contradict what the blossoms appear to be saying. They insinuate as well as ravish. A few are practicing to use their stems like whips.’

Whips or otherwise, these flowers are formidable like prized prima donnas. We can’t help but be swayed by the poetry of the light and dark in these images, which gives us yet another reason to be inspired by Mapplethorpe.

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