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Born in Canada, John McKendry was a curator of prints and photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was through McKendry that Mapplethorpe was exposed to photography in a new light and began to consider it as an art form of its own standing. However, McKendry was an alcoholic and this photograph of him was taken in hospital the day before he died, his face slathered in royal jelly moisturiser. Mapplethorpe’s brilliant cropping concentrates our attention on his discriminating eye, for which he was famous, and on the single electrical cord hanging from the socket. Mapplethorpe knew that he didn’t have long to live.