When Outlaw Art Photography Entered Fashion Modeling
THE AGENCY MODELS – THIRTY YEARS LATER, PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
at White Box Contemporary
San Diego Resident Alfredo Santiago Remembers Robert Mapplethorpe Foray Into High Fashion
Video by Katherine Sweetman, words by Reviewer Rob
At the intersection of the fringe art-business world, fashion/modeling and extreme-art photography Robert Mapplethorpe emerged in the late-1970’s/early-80’s. When he wanted to enter fashion as a photographer he approached Alfredo Santiago who was beginning his dalliance with the world of fashion by launching his stable of models at The Agency Models Incorporated in New York in 1983. Santiago says The Agency was eventually ranked fourth among the top ten modeling agencies…
By 1989 Mapplethorpe would be both lionized and demonized because of the fine art male and female nudes he shot of his friends and acquaintances in the NYC scene he moved among. The public funding of his work provoked the religious and homophobic ire of the Far Right when people like Senator Jesse Helms decried him as an example of exactly what the U.S. government should not be supporting with tax dollars.
OK, back to this video… at first Alfredo Santiago demurred because Mapplethorpe’s name was relatively unknown in the fashion world but after providing some weighty personal references, among them Yves Saint Laurent, Santiago gave him a shot.
Mapplethorpe approached the black and white headshot sittings and their image production like an art project. The results were unlike anything else in the industry from that time period.
According to this short Youtube doc, produced through the collaborative efforts of Katherine Sweetman and White Box Contemporary Gallery, an exhibit of the (finished) photographs was held on May 3, 1983, at the Hardison Fine Arts Gallery in NYC. These Palaroid working images were kept by Santiago under his bed for 30 years.
Today, Alfredo Santiago is back living in San Diego where he is from. An SDSU graduate, Santiago says he’s seen everything the New York art scene had to offer him. He’s long-retired from fashion. He’d like you to see these historic original, hand-altered photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. If everything that is presented about them is true, they’re beyond rare. They are each one-of-a-kind and never before exhibited.
Interested parties can contact Alexander Salazar or Anjela Piccard at White Box Contemporary, 1040 7th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-237-8813.
Check out this bit of history courtesy of Broken Crutch Production: