Joel Peter Witkin- Contextual Study

Topics: Photography, War photography, Photographer Pages: 1 (402 words) Published: February 19, 2012
Contextual Study
Joel-Peter Witkin is arguably the most controversial photographer in history. His work surrounds themes and issues such as death, corpses, and people who are often concealed from society such as dwarfs and transsexuals. His work has been described as both “morbid” and “that of a genius”, yet these provocative images, he claims are inspired by his childhood. An accident that happened outside his house, involving a young girl being decapitated fascinated him. "It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother's hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it—but before I could touch it someone carried me away." His upfront view of horror and death is represented in a beautiful and energetic way, and presents the fresh curiosity he possessed as a child. He is able to find beauty in the most repulsive and grotesque things. In order to find his subjects he has visited medical schools, mental asylums and morgues across the world. His bold images have provided a lot of controversy. He creates his own world of the dead, through his pictures. Witkin was born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York City, to a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother. However, his parents divorced when he was young because of their religious differences. After school he worked as a war photographer in the Vietnam war. In 1967, he decided to work as a freelance photographer, and later studies to become a Master of Fine Art. Witkin works in a defined manner,...
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