If looking at most art prompts placid rumination, viewing the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin is like witnessing a brutal car crash. Any initial repulsion is complicated by an undeniable fascination. Witkin's images are impossible to dismiss. His subjects, many of whom are physically deformed, are sometimes masked, often unclothed, and are photographed in questionable moral contexts: arms and heels jammed up anuses, complex sado-masochistic tableaus, human oddities in macabre or romantic settings. Because of the extreme nature of his vision and subject matter, his work is sometimes labeled exploitive. Yet Witkin exhibits a carefully developed sensitivity towards his models. They are silent collaborators in an involved imaginative process which Witkin considers the direct opposite of exploitation His mastery over presentation is evident in the creation of rich, highly manipulated prints. Joel-Peter Witkin: The Graces, New Mexico, 1988
Joel-Peter Witkin: The Graces, New Mexico, 1988