Mapplethorpe made this portrait of Jesse McBride in 1976, in the presence of and with the consent of his mother, Clarissa Dalrymple. Dalrymple recalled: "It was all done in a spirit of fun and innocence." She and her son recalled these circumstances some 13 years later, in 1989-90, when Mapplethorpe's work was condemned by Senator Jesse Helms and other conservative forces who 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 Jesse McBride -- 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.
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