In 1967, she left Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and moved to Manhattan. She met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe there while working at a bookstore with friend and poet Janet Hamill. She and Mapplethorpe had an intense romantic relationship, which was tumultuous as the pair struggled with times of poverty, and Mapplethorpe with his own sexuality. Smith considers Mapplethorpe to be one of the most important people in her life, and in her book Just Kids refers to him as "the artist of my life. " Mapplethorpe's photographs of her became the covers for the Patti Smith Group albums, and they remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. Her book and album The Coral Sea would be an homage to the life of Mapplethorpe and Just Kids would tell the story of their relationship. She would also write essays for several of Mapplethorpe's books, starting from one, at his request, for his posthumous Flowers.