HBO is airing the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures to coincide with two retrospective exhibitions of the late photographer’s work at the Getty and LACMA, both in Los Angeles. Robert Mapplethorpe was known to take graphic, controversial photographs with a medium format Hasselblad that some politicians including North Carolina’s late Republican Senator Jesse Helms tried to censor. In 1989, on the the floor of the U.S. Senate, Helms protested against NEA funding for Mapplethorpe’s “obscene” art and urged his colleagues to “Look at the pictures.”
[The curators of Getty and LACMA published Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs in March 2016]
The documentary will reveal Mapplethorpe’s life from his childhood in Queens to his early death from AIDS in 1989. Interviews with his family and friends including punk rock icon turned National Book Award-winning author Patti Smith (Just Kids, M Train) will be featured. Smith referred to her roommate and partner Mapplethorpe as “the artist of my life.” Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures will premiere on HBO on Monday, April 4 at 9pm.