curated by Enrico Stefanelli
in cooperation with Badouin Lebon Gallery, Paris
Immoral, obscene, perverted, grotesque, profane… These are some of the adjectives used to describe the work of Joel-Peter Witkin by “politically correct” people.
Yes, his works show an unimaginable visual violence, they are built in the studio with the expertise of a surgeon (and the reference to the scalpel is not by chance). His subjects are strong and never invented: they all are the people that Heaven has punished with incredibly cruel deformities. Behind his research in the drawers of the Morgue, which store the poor remains of unknown people, stays his intention to make them privileged subjects of his works, his will to give back their existence beyond the period of time that is given to each one. Witkin redeems these tortured and repulsive bodies, these fragments, making them the protagonists of life. A life that invents elaborate stagings in order to restore their dignity, that society will never accept. Thinking back to those images, Witkin says: “In the end, why do I do these works? I did it for the glory of God and to inflame the souls of man. This is what I live for.”
Of course, nobody else before him has ever created such images in photography, ripping through the heavy curtain of tradition.
(from a text by Enrico Stefanelli)