The Despair of The Soul
by Alain Jullien
I know that the foundation of all my work rests on the despair of the soul. My photographic benefactors are dead. I live to create images representing the fight for the redemption of souls.
- Joel-Peter Witkin

Photography is a medium; it is a way to express oneself and to that extend photography is not important. Only photographers, artists who use this medium, are of interest. They have something to say, they express what we, spectators, cannot. The role of artists is to enable us to face realities that we are not aware of. J.P. Witkin certainly is a master at showing our realities, our dreams or nightmares. Maybe confronting, at an early age, the rolling head of a young girl on the streets of New York was a starting point or a least a revelation. Fortunately it is a starting point, fortunately Witkin went on to explore and express his imagination. But that might not have been enough to become an artist. For our great pleasure, he often uses references of classic art in the Western world in his title like:Venus in Chains, The Raft of G. W. Bush, History of the White World, Venus and the Magdalen, Picasso en Los Disparates de Goya. He uses these references to go further in the photographic medium, to become “baroque” in the traditional meaning. After a long and rigorous era of classicism, a wind of freedom brings on baroque to music and painting in Europe of the 17th and 18th century. In photography, the classic trend is express by an inalterable link with reality. In portrait, landscape, even in documentary fields, a photograph cannot lie, cannot deviate from the Truth, but we know better, we understand that artists working with photography, use this link with reality to question our understanding of the rules and regulations, to make us aware of the multiple realities around us. Today the argument against digital manipulation comes from a fear of the disappearing relationship between reality and photography. So it is with great pleasure that we can present the photographic work of Joel peter Witkin. His silver prints, manipulated, scratched, drawn but photographic, shall be looked at and “read” as the results of his imagination, of course, but also of his education. I do not mean his diplomas or his reading ability; I definitely mean his visual and artistic education. He is, and then his work is the result of what was before him, he has not invented anything, but he translates his education, experiences and sensibility into two dimensional images that change our formatted understanding. These images open doors we did not know existed by using references to Western Art history through the filter of photography. Two dimensional images taking on multiple layers of perception to involve us in an artist mind. It is pure pleasure, beauty that lingers and permeates the soul of the viewer.

I wish to thank, with great pleasure, Baudoin Lebon and his staff.
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