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Joel-Peter Witkin on the Beauty of the Grotesque

Joel-Peter Witkin, Idolatry In Vacua, 2002, Hand- painted gelatin silver print.

In Joel-Peter Witkin’s world, death is not to be feared. Instead, there is beauty in the macabre, and some humor there too, as evidenced from his lifelong career creating photographs that evoke a range of reactions from outrage to wonder. With still lifes featuring dismembered body parts, and portraits of transsexual people posed in classical art forms, Witkin’s brand of subversiveness has established him as one of the most important contemporary photographers today. 

An exhibition at galerie baudoin lebon, in Paris, “Joel-Peter Witkin: The Untold Life of the Photograph” explores Witkin’s creative process: encaustic photography, props from his immaculately staged tableaus, and contact sheets with scribbled handwriting all plunge the viewer into Witkin’s world, by turns dark and paradisiacal. 

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