There are a number of artistic ventures that extend beyond the realms of sharing skills, ideas, and spaces and move in to the world of shared rooms, beds, and love affairs. One overcast day in a penthouse studio overlooking Fifth Avenue, the sometimes lovers and undying friends, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe shot the cover for Smith’s 1975 album ‘Horses’. The iconic image was captured and without pretence; Smith was wearing a white crisp blouse, a black jacket thrown over her shoulder – Sinatra style, and was saturated in light, while Mapplethorpe shot a mere 12 images using a Polaroid camera, abandoning the light meter and producing what Camille Paglia stated was ‘one of the greatest pictures ever taken of a woman’.
In her memoir ‘Just Kids’, Smith states about the image; ‘When I look at it now, I never see me, I see us’. The insight we have in to this twisted heap of love, rock n’ roll, cheap hotel rooms and the creative cesspool that was the 70’s grime of New York City, paints a picture of the potential that is born from chance meetings and appreciation of the other.
Mapplethorpe was only beginning the journey to secure his position as one of America’s greatest illustrative historians who went on to capture the likes of Warhol, Burroughs, Grace Jones and Debbie Harry. ‘Horses’ as Smith’s first studio album, propelled Mapplethorpe towards this impending success and set Patti in the centre stage of the rock n’ roll era.
This crucial romantic cornerstone began when Patti first moved from New Jersey to New York City, and walked in to Robert’s apartment looking for someone else. He was sleeping as a shepherd boy, recalls Patti. This tale of a light addicted photographer and his muse falling in love during their prelude to fame allows us to value that artistic endeavours begin and end with the appreciation of self, and the appreciation of the other.