Robert Mapplethorpe was part of New York City's downtown scene in the late 1960s and was best known initially as rocker Patti Smith's lover and artistic collaborator. Mapplethorpe came out around the time of the Stonewall Riots (1969), but he and Smith remained close. In 1971 Mapplethorpe began taking pictures with a Polaroid camera, and this self-portrait from 1975 has the instant, offbeat edginess that he initially liked in photography: a kind of faux-documentary technique that didn't take itself too seriously. Over time, Mapplethorpe became more interested in formalism in both his portraits and other photographs, moving away from the spontaneity encouraged by the Polaroid. Even his overtly sexual pictures have a gravity that is some distance from this exuberant self-portrait, taken in the year that his career took off.