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Mapplethorpe Flora: The Complete Flowers, the definitive collection of Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photographs

“I surprised myself, having tuned in fairly lackadaisically, more out of a general sort of cultural curiosity than anything else — but while that curiosity was being gratified in the expected ways, I was also unexpectedly struck, or, more fittingly, pierced. I want the word in the Roland Barthesian sense, pointing to the anomalous detail in a photograph that penetrates to the viewer’s unconscious and arrests the attention. On one level, as the subject was Mapplethorpe, the film was itself a long sequence of anomalies — as the man’s life was a vivid assemblage of just such. But the mythology that has grown up around all things Mapplethorpe has tamed these into a fashionable narrative, so that, paradox of paradoxes, what catches the eye — what caught my eye, anyway — is what some might think is the least anomalous thing. What quickened my interest — fixated me — was not penises or positionings or leather straps or Patti Smith. Rather, it was a short sequence of his photographs of flowers and the almost palpable silence created by their classic display. […]


The flowers, of course, offer easier access to further investigation. As a subject they carry less possibility of being objectionable — they’re flowers! — and the purging of association amounts, in part, to a purging of sentiment. This means, for starters, isolating the flower as an object without context; highlighting its shapes against a stark backdrop in the way that best reveals pure form. Mapplethorpe does this with exceptional rigor. Purity of attention is evident via optical precision as well as the almost intellectual framing that asserts his reverence for these visual attributes. He removes them as much as possible from softness or textured delicacy. Indeed, he does everything he can with lens and darkroom work to give us that moment of dissociation in which we see not the flower but rather the more abstract thing that will almost instantly assemble itself into one. In that split-second free fall, that gap before naming, the effect is registered.”

Cocks and Flowers, Los Angeles Review of Books

I don’t have much in my life But take it – it’s yours