Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sunday Book Review: “Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe”

By Deborah Solomon
Sam Wagstaff, left, and Robert Mapplethorpe, in a 1974 Francesco Scavullo portrait. Credit
Courtesy of Sean Byrnes, The Scavullo Foundation and The Motion Picture Group Inc., Philadelphia
NEW YORK---The mention of Sam Wagstaff’s name is likely to elicit a respectful nod from anyone who cares about photography. He made his mark in the ’70s, when he haunted print shops and auction houses and assembled a major collection. Was photography art? Wagstaff’s lover, Robert Mapplethorpe, answered the question with a vengeance, yoking an austere, nearly arctic elegance to images of flowers, male nudes and the rituals of sadomasochism. Philip Gefter, a photography critic and former picture editor at The New York Times, wants us to see Wagstaff as a towering figure in the history of photography. To that end, he has written an admiring and absorbing biography, “Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe.” [link]

Before and After Mapplethorpe: A Biography
By Philip Gefter
Illustrated. 458 pp. Liveright Publishing. $35.