Joel-Peter Witkin (American, b.1939) is a photographer whose subject matter is quite particular, revolving around death, unusual forms of beauty and cultural acceptance of the deformed and unfortunate. Although his photos have an elegantly theatrical and historical presentation with an elaborate printing method that replicates early photography and Daguerreotypes, his subjects and models come from a darker world full of circus freak show horrors with bodily deformations, erotic curiosities, deviant behaviors, and nightmares.
Witkin’s subjects and models come from the social underground and even from the morgue, realities not normally seen by the general public, let alone made into fine art. Needless to say, his work sometimes shocks and repulses while intriguing the viewer to take a closer examination, not unlike the urge to stare into a car crash to see what happened.
In fact, Witkin sites that his work is greatly inspired by a horrifying accident he witnessed as a young child, where a small girl was killed and her decapitated head rolled over to his feet! And as a young photographer, he also worked during the Vietnam War from 1961-64 as a war photographer. Witkin studied sculpture at Columbia University where he earned a BFA in 1974, and received an MFA from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1986.
The exhibition at the Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia shows 55 of Witkin’s photographs, beautiful images of macaber and morbid, and definitely worth seeing if you are in Florence and interested in photography – not to miss this rare opportunity to see Witkin’s work in person.
IL MAESTRO DEI SUOI MAESTRI
March 21 – June 24, 2013
MNAF Alinari National Museum of Photography
Piazza Santa Maria Novella 14a rosso – Florence, Italy
Hours: 10 am – 6:30 pm (Wednesday closed)
Admission: Adults €9 (includes exhibit and Museum) – Reduced €7.50 – Admission charge for schools: €4 per person