Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Post 4: Witkin's significance to me

This blog entry is for you, my intrigued reader. You recently asked me "about his significance to the art world, and to me,” and that is great question, but with complicated answers. In this post, I am going to talk about his significance on me, and the art world will have to wait for later. That is if I can think of something to say about that.

Joel-Peter Witkin affects me in many different ways.

His work stands out from your typical portrait, commercial, landscape, photographer. You will not always remember a cute little baby posed in a bucket like he/she is taking a bath, but you will always remember the work of Joel-Peter Witkin. You will think about him at dinner, while driving to work, and before you go to bed. He is the type of photographer who gets etched into your mind and who is there to stay.

For the longest time, I have had the desire to create work that has a lasting effect on the viewer. I want to be that photographer who that viewer thinks about driving home from the opening reception. Having that ability to create evocative work would make my day.


As a controversial photographer, there will always be controversy. Within yourself as to what kind of photograph you want to take and why, and within the public. Photographers or any artist for that matter should make art for the love of it, and for their desire to bush boundaries (if they choose to do so). If some people get the art, and some people do not, that is pretty normal. It is almost to be expected. But, if no one gets it, then you would have to go back to the drawing board.

His work is a hybrid (a mixture of different aspects). A recent comment that someone made regarding his photographs pretty much sums it up, in my opinion:

“Young/old, religious/non religious, women haters/men haters, animal lovers/animal haters, ugliness/beauty.” Her quote went on. Very insightful, but of course, my mom can be an insightful person if she puts her mind to it.

He is a very clever man. You could say he’s a walking genius.


Because of him, I now have the desire to create similar work. I do not need to photograph cadavers and such because I do not have the desire to be a copycat, but I do have the desire to photograph the social misfits of our society. All of my life, I have always felt like a social misfit. I did not have a lot of friends in school, got teased about my weight constantly throughout the day, and classmates were generally fucking assholes (pardon my French), but it is true. I even knew I was attracted to women by the time I was 10 years old. How much more miss fitted could I get?

In Frank Horvat’s interview with Mr. Witkin, he stated: “I also photographed freak shows - in fact that's where I started. To me they seemed so much more interesting than the people who were watching them, more wonderful, more like physical manifestations of something unique. My gift is to deal with horror and pain, knowing that in horror and pain there is something sacred.”

I believe I relate to some of the social misfits within our society because I am one. I know what it is like to have a mental illness.

I know what it is like to be physically incapacitated at times.

I know what it is like to be gawked at, and I know what it is like to be rejected.

It has not been a pleasant experience for me, but that “horror and pain” has made me stronger, and it made me into the person that I am today.

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