Joel-Peter Witkin


Joel-Peter Witkin (Brooklyn, USA, 1939) began photographing at the age of 15 years. After graduation, a job in a lab color printing in New York and his military service, he studied at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture and at the University of New Mexico. His pictures are great tableuax representing his personal vision of the world. Full of references to literature, history and religion, they represent characters living on the margins of society – dwarfs, hermaphrodites, people with disabilities or physical deformities – or mutilated bodies and body parts, taken in medical schools, in mental hospitals or mortuaries. In his pictures, Flemish and Renaissance paintings, echoes of Caravaggio and artists of the twentieth century seem to coexist. He carefully plans his tableaux, drawing sketches and taking care of every detail before shooting in his studio. Numerous publications, including: Joel-Peter Witkin, A Retrospective (1995); Harms Way (1994); Joel-Peter Witkin, Twelve Photographs in Gravure (1994); Gods of Heaven and Earth (1989). His work is part of prestigious public collections: The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He was awarded the Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France, by the French Government.

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