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Joel-Peter Witkin

United States Born in: 1939 Famous artist
"I exist to create images representing the struggle for the redemption of souls." This desire in the artist stems from a car crash he witnessed at the age of six, during which the head of a young girl rolled to a stop right at his feet. Born in New York in 1939, Joel-Peter Witkin studied sculpture formally as a subject, obtaining his degree in 1974.

He early on began capturing photographic images of the star attractions of a freak show. The outsiders and misfits he chose to pose for his photographs (usually by means of outrageous advertisements) are striking subjects that strongly draw the attention and serve as the hallmark of Joel-Peter Witkin's style. As in the works of Jérôme Bosch or Franciso de Goya, his photographs evoke the grand showmanship of these kinds of spectacles: a morbid and intriguing orchestration. His works sometimes reference great paintings, such as « Las Meninas » and « The Raft of the Medusa ». Witkin equates his role with that of a saint whose « purpose is to sublimate our awareness ».

His photographs, which are shot indoors, are carefully thought out in minute detail by the artist. He arrives at the final composition by making pencil and charcoal sketches. Though his output is small, he spends a lot of time on the prints, to which he pays particular attention. When processing them, he tries to obtain a genuine photographic work rather than simply a paper print; he highlights and brings out the qualities of the subject of the photograph. He does not carry out any preliminary editing but instead alters the photograph afterwards by sticking elements together, or even by scratching the negatives.

He was awarded the French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1999. His works are exhibited all over the world.
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