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“I like to look at pictures, all kinds. And all those things you absorb come out subconsciously one way or another. You’ll be taking photographs and suddenly know that you have resources from having looked at a lot of them before. There is no way you can avoid this. But this kind of subconscious influence is good, and it certainly can work for one. In fact, the more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.”

Robert Mapplethorpe

Homenage to Robert Mapplethorpe
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

What Robert Mapplethorpe can teach you about portrait photography

To find inspiration for a photographic project it’s always a good idea to look at the great master’s. Why not shoot a series as an homage to your favorite photographer and adding your personal note? An excelent example for that is English photographer Jacob Perlmutter. Some 50 years after Robert Frank had published his legendary series “The Americans”, he sat out to follow Frank’s footsteps and document his personal view on the US today. I recently had the pleasure to talk with Jacob Perlmutter. In the feature “On The Road With Robert” he talks about his series 88 days”.

The series I’d like to show here was the final project for one of my university classes on portrait photography. It’s inspired by the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

 

Black and White Image Inspired By Robert Mapplethorpe
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

About the concept of the portrait series “Homage to Robert Mapplethorpe”

The idea was to capture the aesthetics of the human body and portray a person at the same time just by showing different parts of his body. I decided to shoot the images in black and white with a neutral background to strip the scenes to the core and to only show the absolute necessary. I wanted nothing to distract the observer from the person portrayed on the pictures. In order to direct the attention directly to the facets I wanted to stand out and to emphasize the texture and radiance of the skin I opted for a soft and subtle lighting arrangement. And to achieve a great sense of visual harmony and balance in the images, I put special emphasize on placing the lines and points of interests as a means of photographic composition.

 

Exploring the work of Robert Mapplethorpe
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

Thinking Of Robert Mapplethorpe
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

Finding inspiration in Robert Mapplethorpe and his portraits
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

Taking Robert Mapplethorpe as an example
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

Harmony and Balance Inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe
A portrait series in black and white inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe © Kai Behrmann

 

Further reading about Robert Mapplethorpe

To learn more about the work of Robert Mapplethorpe I recommend the book “Mapplethorpe”. It gives an excelent overview of his black and white work. For those who are more interested in finding out more about Mapplethorpe’s biography, “Just Kids” by Patti Smith is a good choice. It’s a very private story about her friendship with Mapplethorpe.

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