Robert Mapplethorpe rose to prominence on New York's art scene in the 1970s thanks to his incredible photography. Throughout his career, he experimented with a variety of photographic subjects, becoming especially interested in controversial subject matter like pornographic film stars and the S&M underground scene.

In 1986, Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS. He continued to expand his artistic career despite the illness and in 1988 had his first major American retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art. In the same year, he founded the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. In 1989, the iconic American photographer died.