In short

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Eve Arnold, School for non-violence, Virginia, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold, School for non-violence, Virginia, 1960 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Forty years of an artistic journey, with an undeniable timelessness, concentrated in the unpublished works, recently produced by Joel-Peter Witkin. This outstanding American photographer’s favourite themes link sexual desire, spirituality and death in living pictures, antechamber of fetishism. He develops a system of representation functioning as a mirror shaped by powerful signs. He combines the power of virtues and vices like a magical practice to signify better the private and social connections.

Like a demigod, he delivers us demimondes that we have been invited to perceive, to interpret… all as if we are invited, anew, to confront ourselves to his real false mementi mori. He also possesses an artistic culture, that is perceptible in his themes, his artistic language, but also in the precision of his photo shooting devices. His sketch books contain multiple references to pictorial or sculptural works from the history of art and hold as many of the secrets of his soul…

Here, photography is always submissive to the chemical properties and other twists and turns and the intervention of the physical gesture: scratching, tearing, abrasion, inscribing, cutting. An intervention that can be read as a subjugated embodiment, manifested by the overlaying of paint, the visible retouching, the cutting-out, the collage and the polishing.

This new exhibition by the remarkable Witkin, on view at the Baudoin Lebon gallery in Paris, imparts the history of consciousness and the soul to the usual iconography in which the sacred and the profane penetrate each other. It also gives all the iconoclastic and atypical technical expertise of this extraordinary photographer .


Joel Peter Witkin, The Soul Has No Gender
From 20th April to 3rd June 2017
Part of the Mois de la Photo du Grand Paris
Galerie Baudoin Lebon
8 Rue Charles-François Dupuis
75003 Paris

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Joel-Peter Witkin

Born in 1939, Joel-Peter Witkin is an American photographer based in Albuquerque.