Mapplethorpe made this portrait of Rosie Bowdrey in 1976, in the presence of and with the consent of her mother, Lady Beatrix Nevill. In 1996, when Bowdrey was 23, she described it as a "very, very sweet picture" that "captures childhood innocence." This recollection provides a counterpoint to Senator Jesse Helms and other conservative forces who, in 1989-90, objected to Mapplethorpe's posthumous retrospective exhibition "The Perfect Moment, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and supported by federal funding. Children were never among Mapplethorpe's favorite subjects -- he made only a few commissioned portraits and even fewer candid images like this portrait of Rosie Bowdrey -- but the subject recurs constantly in the history of photography, from fine art to family albums. Examining such images in their cultural specificity, we gain an understanding of the values we place on childhood at any given time.
For further discussion of this issue, click here