After serving in the Navy during World War II, Sam Wagstaff came home to New York City and pursued a career in advertising, and through his work in the ad game he developed a keen interest in photography.
Reflecting his own personal evolution as he came to accept his homosexuality, Wagstaff became an enthusiastic collector of art photography and gained a reputation as a curator, organizing a number of important museum shows of new photographers and becoming a friend and confidante of artists such as Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Richard Tuttle and Tony Smith.
In the early Seventies, Wagstaff met a young photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe, who shared a loft with his best friend, a poet and aspiring musician named Patti Smith.
Wagstaff and Mapplethorpe became first friends and then lovers, and as enthusiastic supporters of Smith's work they traveled between New York's upscale art community and the punk rock scene which was emerging on the Bowery.
Passionate allies in art and life who explored the edges of human experience, Wagstaff and Mapplethorpe were partners for life, but their lives were cut short by AIDS -- the disease claimed Wagstaff in 1987, and Mapplethorpe in 1989. Black, White and Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe is a documentary by filmmaker James Crump which explores the lives of two remarkable people, their circle of talented friends, and the community and times which surrounded them.
Black White + Gray received its world premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.