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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Robert Mapplethorpe photo you haven't seen: The one he took of me

The Robert Mapplethorpe photo you haven't seen: The one he took of me

I first met Robert Mapplethorpe in the elevator of the Chelsea Hotel in 1973, when I was 4. My father had just died in a car accident, and my mother was simply lost. The New York hotel was a perfect place for anyone longing for a new identity or reality. Few people there were my age, and in my mind I ruled the shabby chic hallways like Eloise at the Plaza.

Robert, like most of my mother’s friends, was just another shadow smoking cigarettes, but I paid attention to him because he had a toy I wanted: a Polaroid camera.

Robert and I later became neighbors on opposite ends of Bond Street in summer 1976. He was 23 years older, so we were not best friends. We never sent...

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