Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
(Few living photographers are as consistently controversia...)
Few living photographers are as consistently controversial and provocative as Joel-Peter Witkin, whose work elicits hostility and admiration in equal measure. Shocking and compelling, the photographs in this retrospective collection reach to the outer limits of human nature. 100 full-page reproductions, printed in four colors.
(The image exudes torture and pain, but this is not the ex...)
The image exudes torture and pain, but this is not the extent of the photographer's ambition for it. He envisions a huge scale; the print will be the largest he can make because he has mapped a grand conception, and, after more than forty years as a photographer, arrived at a place of understanding more lucid than he has ever before achieved. With his vanitas, he establishes an erotic territory of majestic sacrifice and sacrament, the meaning of which, for him, lies somewhere between the unspeakable suffering of the crucified Christ and that of the Jews under Hitler.
Joel-Peter Witkin attended grammar school at Saint Cecelia's in Brooklyn and went on to Grover Cleveland High School. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture (1975) from Cooper Union (The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art) in New York City and a Master of Arts in Photography (1977) from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where he is a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in Photography.
In 1961 Joel-Peter Witkin enlisted in the United States Army with the intention of capturing war photography during the Vietnam war. However, due to scheduling conflicts, he never saw combat in Vietnam. Joel-Peter Witkin spent his military time at Fort Hood, Texas, and was mostly in charge of Public Information and classified photos. In 1967, he became the official photographer for City Walls Inc.
Joel-Peter Witkin was born to a Jewish father and Roman Catholic mother.
Joel-Peter Witkin considers issues of morality as central to his work. Drawing from a rich body of sources - literature, myth, and Renaissance and Baroque painting - he creates elaborate photographic tableaux that address the morbid, the perverse, the erotic, and the religious. In nearly all of his works, these moral issues are acted out by social outcasts, pariahs, and human oddities. Joel-Peter Witkin also frequently uses dead bodies or body parts in the creation of his work all of which contribute to the spiritual and ephemeral quality of his imagery.