Robert Mapplethorpe initially used photography to incorporate imagery into his collage art. He then began taking up the camera himself, using it as an artistic instrument to carry through his message. Working in New York in the 70s, his work was seen as controversial for its depiction of the underground BDSM scene and its homoerotic undertones.
In the 80s, his work evolved into focusing on still life images of flowers and statuesque nudes that appear influenced by classical art. He was also instrumental in influencing a love of photography as fine art in his partner and benefactor Sam Wagstaff, who sold off his collection of paintings in order to begin collecting photography. This collection was later sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum for a report $5 million.