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Mapplethorpe - a study

            In the following pages I will be looking at the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, in.
             particular various black and white flower photographs titled Lily 1977, Calla.
             Lily 1984, Calla Lily 1986 and Calla Lily 1988. All of these particular images.
             appeared in the Mapplethorpe exhibition "The Perfect Moment", which caused.
             enormous uproar due to the controversial imagery. Employing various methods of.
             analysis such as psychoanalysis and semiotics I aim to reveal some of the.
             underlying currents throughout his work. Although these images are not sexually.
             graphic, they do allude to sex, in particular the male sexual organs. .
             Mapplethorpe once stated that "my approach to photographing a flower is not much.
             different than photographing a cock. Basically it's the same thing" (Celant.
             1993). This leads me to believe that Mapplethorpe's social life and sexuality.
             had an enormous influence on these non-sexually graphic images. In particular.
             the context in which he presented them to the public was quite erotic itself. .
             He placed sadomasochism imagery together with these beautiful sensual flower.
             images, which provoked the correlation between the two types of imagery. .
             The context of the exhibition in which these photographs were featured had an.
             enormous impact on how the images were perceived. In fact, it is the context of.
             the exhibition, along with the controversy surrounding it, which influences the.
             viewer as to the subliminal undercurrents of these photographs. These same.
             images out of this context could be put on a pedestal as beautiful icons of.
             purity, but by bringing these images into an environment filled with S&M imagery.
             the viewers perception is changed. "It is impossible to look at them and ignore.
             their context, and so they have taken on further ambiguity: they are in effect.
             calling attention to the pictures that are hidden from view" (Ashley 1996). It.
             also lets the viewer's subconscious play an important part in the interpretation.

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