Inspired by Andy Warhol's film Chelsea Girls (1966), Robert Mapplethorpe moved to Manhattan in 1969 to meet the artist and to emulate him-in art, lifestyle, and material success. After he settled at the Chelsea Hotel, where segments of Warhol's film were shot, he began making photographs, often self-portraits or portraits of his roommate, the poet Patti Smith, and usually with a borrowed Polaroid camera.
Mapplethorpe's maturing approach to photography resembled Warhol's in many ways. He had no patience for the technical side of the medium and prided himself on gaining a reputation without ever having made a print himself. Portraiture was his main theme, and he used the camera as a means of making connections with celebrities, potential patrons, and possible lovers. In the 1980s, sales of Mapplethorpe's pictures soared. Warhol was commissioned to paint his portrait, so Mapplethorpe sat for the preparatory Polaroids, including this one. In turn, Warhol sat for Mapplethorpe in 1986.