Contemporary Art Gallery Madrid

Biography

1939, Brooklyn, New York, USA.
Lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

Joel-Peter Witkin is one of the leading photographers of our time, famous for his provocative and controversial works exploring death, religion, myth and allegory.

The artist was born on September 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother and has a twin brother, Jerome Witkin, who is a well-known painter. 
Witkin's parents were unable to transcend their religious differences and divorced while he was still young. Their mother raised Joel-Peter and his twin brother in a deeply religious atmosphere. He attended grammar school at Saint Cecelia's in Brooklyn and went on to Grover Cleveland High School.

Witkin bought his first camera in the mid-1950s and taught himself the fundamentals of camera use. Even his first photographs were unusual, depicting the many unsettling experiences of his childhood. His very first photograph portrayed a rabbi who claimed to have spoken to God. At the request of his brother, Witkin later took his camera to the Coney Island freak show. Jerome wanted the photographs for his own unique paintings.

Joel-Peter Witkin was drafted into the army in 1961. In order to have some control over his assignment, Witkin enlisted in the army for three years as a combat photographer. His assignments included recording on film the bodies of soldiers who had committed suicide or died in training accidents.

In 1967 Witkin decided to work as a freelance photographer and became City Walls Inc. official photographer. Following his army service, Witkin attended Cooper Union in New York and received his B.F.A. in 1974. During this same period, Columbia University awarded Witkin a fellowship in poetry. Witkin completed his graduate studies in photography and art history at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, receiving his M.A. in 1976 and his M.F.A. in 1981.

Witkin claims that his vision and sensibility were initiated by an episode he witnessed when he was just a small child, a car accident that occurred in front of his house in which a young girl was decapitated: 

"It happened on a Sunday when my mother was escorting my twin brother and me down the steps of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. While walking down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow, in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother's hand. At the place where I stood at the curb, I could see something rolling from one of the overturned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I bent down to touch the face, to speak to it - but before I could touch it someone carried me away."

Photographies de Joel-Peter Witkin, Delpire Editeur, France, 2012.

Photographies de Joel-Peter Witkin
Delpire Editeur, France, 2012.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Robert Delpire and Marie Michelangeli.
French, 304 pages, 29,5 x 4,4 x 30,5 cm, hardcover with dust jacket.
ISBN-10: 2851072595
ISBN-13: 978-2851072597

Joel-Peter Witkin. Enfer ou Ciel, Heaven or Hell, Éditions de La Martinière, Paris, France, 2012.

Joel-Peter Witkin. Enfer ou Ciel, Heaven or Hell
Éditions de La Martinière, Paris, France, 2012.

Exhibition catalogue from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Texts by Anne Biroleau. 
French, 239 pages, 31 x 23 cm, hardcover.
ISBN-10: 2732451940
ISBN-13: 978-2732451947

Joel-Peter Witkin: Vanitas, Nakladatelstvi Arbor vitae, Prague, Czech Republic, 2012.

Joel-Peter Witkin: Vanitas
Nakladatelstvi Arbor vitae, Prague, Czech Republic, 2012.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Otto M. Urban.
English, 164 pages, 23 x 26 cm, softcover.
ISBN-10: 8087164725
ISBN-13: 978-8087164723

Joel-Peter Witkin, Series: Photofile, Thames & Hudson, London, UK, 2008.

Joel-Peter Witkin
Series: Photofile, Thames & Hudson, London, UK, 2008.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Eugenia Parry.
English, 144 pages, 18 x 13 cm, softcover.
ISBN-10: 050041095X
ISBN-13: 978-0500410950

Joel-Peter Witkin, Phaidon Press, 2007.

Joel-Peter Witkin
Phaidon Press, 2007.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Eugenia Parry.
English, 128 pp., 56 black and white illustrations, 24,5 x 21 cm, hardcover.
ISBN-13: 9780714847870
ISBN-10: 0714847879

Joel-Peter Witkin, Phaidon Verlag GmbH, 2001.

Joel-Peter Witkin
Phaidon Verlag GmbH, 2001.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Eugenia Parry. 
English, 128 pp., 55 photographs presented chronologically, 16 x 14 cm, softcover.
ISBN 10: 0714891894  
ISBN 13: 9780714891897

Joel-Peter Witkin: A Retrospective, Scalo Publishers, New York, USA, 1995.

Joel-Peter Witkin: A Retrospective 
Scalo Publishers, New York, USA, 1995.

Artist monograph.
Texts by Germano Celant.
English, 272 pages, 100 full-page reproductions, 30 x 23 cm, hardcover.
ISBN-10: 1881616207
ISBN-13: 978-1881616207

Joel-Peter Witkin: Forty Photographs, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, USA, 1990.

Joel-Peter Witkin: Forty Photographs
San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, USA, 1990.

Exhibition catalogue.
Texts by Van Coke.
English, 48 pages, 23 x 30 cm, softcover.
ISBN-10: 0918471052
ISBN-13: 978-0918471055

Joel-Peter Witkin, Centre National De La Photographie, France, 1989

Joel-Peter Witkin
Centre National De La Photographie, France, 1989

Exhibition catalogue.
With texts by Alain Dupuy and Antonio Saura.
French, 120 pp. with 46 total four-color plates, 20 x 20 cm, hardcover.
ISBN 10: 2867540542  
ISBN 13: 9782867540547

Joel-Peter Witkin, Ministerio De Cultura, Spain & Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, 1988.

Joel-Peter Witkin
Ministerio De Cultura, Spain & Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, 1988.

Exhibition catalogue.
With texts by Alain Dupuy and Antonio Saura.
Spanish, 120 pp. with 46 total four-color plates, 20 x 20 cm, hardcover.
ISBN-10: 845057482X
ISBN-13: 978-8450574821

Joel-Peter Witkin, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1983.

Joel-Peter Witkin
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1983.

Exhibition catalogue.
Text by Els Barents.
English and Dutch, 28 pages with 42 illustrations, softcover.
ISBN: B002WFXHOW

Joel-Peter Witkin

Portrait of Joel (Self portrait), New Mexico, 1984

Videos

Trailer: Joel-Peter Witkin: An Objective Eye.
Directed by Thomas Marino, 2011-2016.