Robert Mapplethorpe's portraits, images of calla lilies, and chronicles of New York City's underground BDSM scene remain touchstones of 20th-century photography even now, nearly three decades after his death from complications of HIV/AIDS in 1989. Mapplethorpe revisits the titular photographer's legacy, beginning at the moment just before he takes up residence in the Chelsea Hotel. There, Mapplethorpe begins to amass a portfolio of images-and, at the same time, to explore his formerly supressed attraction to men. But Mapplethorpe's relentless ambition-as he says in one early scene, "I can't just be Mapplethorpe the photographer," fancying himself a "modern Michelangelo"-threatens to tear apart the relationships he cherishes the most.
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