Joel-Peter Witikin

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by siv, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. siv

    siv TPF Noob!

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    This guy's stuff is definately NOT SAFE FOR WORK. but i find it absolutely stunning, as grotesque as it may be.

    http://www.art-forum.org/z_Witkin/Frames.htm

    if you can handle really, really eerie stuff like this: [​IMG] then check it out (ps, this is the least creepy photo on the page)

    i just love the crazy stuff he does to his negatives, like bleaching and scratching and whatnot, i really want to try that out...
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Witkin is in my top 20. I've mentioned him before (and he's one of the reasons we got this section).
    His pictures tend to deal with myths and fantasies and have a strange 'modern yet very old' quality that isn't all down to scratching and stressing of the neg.
    I see him as the Francis Bacon of Photography - his picures come from deep inside and show us the darkest of views, revealing the beauty and poetry that can be found in the strange. This is why they are very uncomfortable and disturbing to look at.
    I believe he served in Vietnam, which might explain a few things.
     
  3. siv

    siv TPF Noob!

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    yeah, i totally agree with you on everything you just said. i know that they don't look old due to just messing with the neg, there's obviously...well you know of course.

    but yeah, def. one of my favorite photographers ever.
     
  4. omalley

    omalley TPF Noob!

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    Witkin is undoubtedly a genius. Or at least he has all the signs of one. I got to attend a lecture of his last year, and meet him afterwards to have my copy of 'The Bone House' signed. It was quite a moment for me, I almost dropped the book I was so nervous. He is starting to look like Gene Wilder as Wonka, which makes his choice of subject matter seem all the more bizarre. During the lecture he described himself as "the clown in the concentration camp".
    For anyone who is interested in his technique, it's not as mysterious as I might have imagined. He prints through tissue paper and coats the final prints with wax.
     
  5. Mumfandc

    Mumfandc TPF Noob!

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    Yes, he's definately out there but...

    It's one thing to take candid snapshots of people in public...but what do you think about using cadavers and cutting heads in half of unidentified people, and obviously without their consent??? Just because he can travel to New Mexico or some third-world country and find these bodies doesn't give him the right to use them the way he does.

    I know I wouldn't like that to happen to me, wonder if he wouldn't mind it happening to himself...or how about his son (afterall, all his subjects are SOMEBODY's children). Anyway, that's just how I feel, don't wanna start a debate. But I've seen the rare documentary of how he makes the images look the way they do, it's pretty interesting.
     
  6. Mumfandc

    Mumfandc TPF Noob!

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    From what I've read about him, he saw a car accident at the age of 7, and some guy get decapitated...maybe that too?
     
  7. thebeginning

    thebeginning TPF Noob!

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    Can others edit my Photos:
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    i understand your point of view.
     
  8. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    You do not know if it is without their consent - some people do donate their bodies to medical research. In any event people who die from un-natural causes always go through a post-mortem exam (autopsy). I've had to attend a few and you wouldn't believe what is done there. Although relatives are told they are never given the details.
    And is it any worse than dropping bombs on civilians in the name of peace? Or getting someone else to kill and butcher animals for you to eat? I think it is the opposite if it makes you face up to your attitudes about life and death.
    Besides - once you are dead you are past caring.
    If Art makes you think - or uncomfortable - then it is doing it's job.
    Personally I see Witkin as the direct successor of Diane Arbus. She liked to turn our preconceptions upside-down as well.
     
  9. Mumfandc

    Mumfandc TPF Noob!

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    That wasn't an assumption I made. In his bio, it states he travels often to New Mexico and third world countries, where he obtains unidentified cadavers. There's a differance between getting an autopsy FOR the deceased (and we are AWARE ourselves that when WE die we will have an autopsy, therefore you can't necessarily say a formal autopsy is WITHOUT one's consent if one knows they will likely get one)...then there's using someone elses body for another's own personal artwork.

    And as for the "If Art makes you think..." comment, I had a feeling someone was going to eventually reply to my post with that...I don't know if you know about the artist/scientist (forgot his name) who takes real human cadavers (with their CONSENT) and preserves, and sculpts (in often humorous positions) their skinned bodies in wax for the public to see. THAT on the other hand I'm OK with.
     
  10. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    But does it say if he obtains the bodies legally or not? The term 'legal' referring to the laws of the country he is in.
    If he breaks no laws then I do not see what the problem is.
    As for autopsies - you would be amazed at how many people are unaware that their dead relatives have had a post mortem, or that post mortems are standard proceedure when people do not die of 'natural causes'. Very few people who know about post mortems know what actually goes on in one.
    And consent does not enter into it - being a legal requirement your permission - or that of your relatives - is not required.
    And what about this? http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/03/10/cadaver.case/

    As for the German professor and his preserved corpses (I forget his name too). I saw his exhibition in London and i found it rather grisly. The process he uses means that the corpses will remain preserved forever - I find this far more disturbing than Witkin. These people may have given their consent but who knows what they may be used for in the future - they could end up as lamposts. I am not sure if the people fully understood this when they gave their consent.

    As for 'Art making you think...'. That is exactly what Witkin is doing - why else would we be having this conversation?
    Try working out why you think it is OK to put dead people on permanent public display with their consent, but not to use corpses in photographs without their consent. Is what Witkin is doing any different from war photographers taking pictures of corpses for newspapers after a battle?
     
  11. omalley

    omalley TPF Noob!

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    In interviews, he explains his work process. He does not go to other countries to obtain gray-market bodies, nor does he just go collecting bodies somewhere and then cutting them up. He is allowed use of the bodies and parts by medical colleges and is supervised by a staff member during the shoot. He is not permitted to disect bodies or parts himself. The idea that someone can simply go around getting bodies illegally is laughable. These are cadavers who were donated to medical science. They would not have donated their remains without being aware that they would be used by students for dissection.
     

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