Art and fetish always had a very close link. Red rubber corsets, complex knots and sex acts on the metro: from Robert Mapplethorpe to Helmut Newton the subversive visionaries who shot fetish best.
Feet, bondage, public places, international love hotels. Across the globe, the subcultures of sex have been slowly drawn out as photographers face our darkest, utmost sexual desires head on. Fetishes that live in the dingy studios of 70s New York, to the dark public parks of Tokyo and neon-lit highway motel rooms of rural America. Although fetish isn’t neccessarily a sexual need, rather, an intensely animated desire. London’s Richard Saltoun gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of the French Surrealist artist Pierre Molinier, a fetish provocateur who experimented with S&M paraphernalia and altered the bodies of his models. In honour of the artist, we chart ten other photographers who lay bare our personal penchants that light the fire of human satisfaction, bringing fetishism out of the darkness.
Mapplethorpe was a regular on the New York night scene of the 70s, chilling comfortably among the Factory crowd and partying Max’s Kansas City crew, flanked by punk’s first lady Patti Smith and a string of creative lovers. He’s known for his classic portraits of everyone from Smith (he’s credited with her iconic Horses cover) to Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry, as well as his classic, black and white nudes. What he’s most famous – or rather, notorious – for, is his explicit, nude and bondage photography. Mapplethorpe perfectly captured the free, titillating spirit of the homoerotic underground bondage and sadomasochistic scene of the 60s and 70s in New York. It was his 1989 retrospective exhibit The Perfect Moment that caused national debate over public funding for the arts, for its use of ‘indecent’ nudity and explicit sexual acts Mapplethorpe would both observe and act on.