Joel Peter Witkin


Whether you like it or not what this guy’s doing, without any doubt he’s one of the greatest photographers of our time. He knows how to polarize! For decades he’s been dealing with the taboo subjects of our society. He takes pictures of death, corpses and body parts. He’s fascinated by the abnormal of human-beings and he focuses on people who are different. Dwarves, giants, hunchbacks, unoperated transsexuals, hermaphrodites, women with beards and all others who, to quote him, “have Christ’s wounds on their bodies”.

Witkin’s fascination with the otherness of human-beings challenges our senses of normality and decency. He confronts the observers with relevant issues such as difference and tolerance and makes them recognize nature’s mistakes.


When you study Joel Peter Witkin’s work only for a little time, you’ll notice something quite exciting. It concerns the templates for Witkin’s tableau photograph.
The titles of Witkin’s photos are very often a hint to other works and pictures in art history. To give one example and a comparison to illustrate what I mean: Arcimboldo’s Summer from the year 1563, which is exhibited in Vienna’s Museum of Fine Arts, and as a contrast Witkin’s Harvest from 1984.


Arcimboldo’s Summer and Witkin’s Harvest

Is it art, or is it just a way of exploitation and exhibitionism? That’s a question Witkin permanently gets confronted with. Over and over again he confirms that for him it’s very clear where he positions himself. He adores the people he works with and emphasizes their uniqueness. For him, abnormity and otherness have the same right to become a piece of art as any other subject.

Witkin is a very special artist about whom everyone should make their own judgment. However, I find it good when those interested in photography and art have already heard about him. His art follows a totally different direction and shows things that remain hidden otherwise.




Posted by Beatrice

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