Everyone’s Always Looking at Robert: Mapplethorpe’s Life in Pictures


He’ll likely always be remembered a certain way, his lean frame angling sharply across a picture, black leather jacket over a torn tee, his curls flopping all over, his gaze direct. But no matter how perfectly he looked the part, Robert Mapplethorpe didn’t arrive a fully formed artist, as we find out in Robert Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s hit Sundance documentary premiering April 4th on HBO. It arrives in the middle of a Robert renaissance, with concurrent museum exhibitions open in Los Angeles, at the Getty Museum and LACMA. Here’s an exclusive early look at the many rare pictures and biographical artifacts in the film, barbed with the directors’ catty commentary.


“We were so captured by the innocence and purity of this photo, it became the poster for our film.” —Fenton and Randy

Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


“This is a photo of Robert and his brothers and sisters taken by his father Harry Mapplethorpe. Robert is on the left.” —Fenton

“Robert said that suburbia ‘was a good place to come from, because it was a good place to leave.'” —Randy

Photo courtesy HBO.


“Portrait of a young artist.” —Randy

“He always wanted to be an artist, he said, ‘whatever that was.'”

Photo courtesy HBO.


“Nancy Rooney is Robert’s older sister. The first photographs he ever took were of her in 1961!” —Randy

Image courtesy HBO.


“A Polaroid of Robert taken by his father Harry, who so disapproved of his style that at times he could not bear to look at his son.” —Fenton

“Those jeans look awfully dirty.” —Randy

Photo courtesy HBO.


“This portrait of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis from 1987 is my favorite Mapplethorpe of all time. Ironically, this portrait was the complete opposite of her noisy public image at the time.” —Fenton

“Look, a pearl necklace!” —Randy

Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


“Brice and Helen Marden are iconic artists, and good friends with Robert when he was still an emerging artist.” —Fenton

“Robert used to take photos of Helen’s bats. Fruit bats.” —Randy

Image courtesy HBO.


“If only this membership card to Mine Shaft, a notorious S&M club, could talk … It’s amazing he kept this as if he always intended his memorabilia to be be kept in a museum. And it is—lovingly preserved at the Getty Research Institute.” —Fenton

Image courtesy HBO.


Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


Image courtesy HBO.


“Ken Moody was one of Mapplethorpe’s favorite models; looking at this picture, it’s easy to understand why.” —Fenton

“His body was a living sculpture.” —Randy

Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


“Ken Moody and Robert Sherman,” 1984. Currently on view at “Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


“In our film, Edward Mapplethorpe and Brian English tell the amazing story of how this iconic photograph came to be.” —Randy

“This photograph, perhaps more than any other, demonstrates how, in the end, all photography is about life and death simultaneously.” —Fenton

Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation/HBO.


“Art Star! Pop Star! Rock Star!” —Randy

“Hustler.” —Fenton

Photo courtesy Robert Mapplethorpe Foundatino/HBO.