Discuss a Joel-Peter Witkin Photograph.

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Sparky, Aug 18, 2006.

  1. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Just kidding! Ha ha. fooled you.
     
  2. mark

    mark Member

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    I was hoping this was a joke. Talk about a can of worms.
     
  3. david b

    david b Member

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    I opened the thread with my hands over my eyes hoping this wasn't for real.
     
  4. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I was looking forward to some fireworks. Drat!
     
  5. david b

    david b Member

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    Actually, how bad could the conversation go? Isn't Jorge banned from posting?
     
  6. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Ohhhh... I'll bet he's here. Guess this'd be a good way to smoke him out...!
     
  7. StephenS

    StephenS Member

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    What did I miss? Witkin is one of my personal favorites and one of the most influential photographers I can think of. Hope I'm not in trouble!!!!
     
  8. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

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    I think so
     
  9. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

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    so who's going to post their favourite one first?
     
  10. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Do a search for "Jorge" and "Witkin". I do believe you'll see MY name in there quite a lot...!
     
  11. tim atherton

    tim atherton Inactive

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    I did come across two young art student ladies the other day who were quite taken with his "stallion" photo...
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Ok , I will bite.

    My favorite Witkin image is the man on the balancing beam with a rope tied to his testicles and connected via a pulley to a set of dumbell weights hanging just five feet above his head.

    the humour of which would be more excrutiating , torn testicals or smashed head is fantastic.
     
  13. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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  15. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    I dont understand some of the comments in this thread.. Maybe it is an inside joke?

    His work seems perfectly valid and worth discussion to me..

    I will post a photograph of his that I think is worth discussion..


    there is nudity..

    I apologize is this is not wanted..
     

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  16. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Could you explain briefly what expressive power there is in dismembered corpses? I grew up as a small child seeing pictures like this in the newspapers - they were of Nazi concentration camps. This more than satisifed any desire I have to view this kind of thing. Sorry, but people who make these images are just sick sensationalists, out to shock at any price because they have nothing else to say.
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

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    Explain to me what the artistic value of a mutilated human body is. Kind of like calling a slasher film quality cinema. Just doesn't hold water.
     
  18. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    The same power that is in a living person. Looking at the two responses to the photograph, maybe more expressive power.

    It doesnt seem to me that once a being is dead that there is nothing left to express..

    I don't think MR. Witkin killed this individual.... I've seen many of the photographs from those camps and I see no correlation between the two.

    You need not apologize to me, I did not create the photograph.
     
  19. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    To me, this photographs value is in how strongly it seems to show the feeling of being alive.. See the attached crop.

    The first time I saw this photograph my initial response came before seeing 100% of it, the part that shows where the cut had been made. I saw the image as cropped and was struck by the smoothness of the skin that seemed to match the stark table and background in terms of mood. Beuatiful tones.

    I am very interested in how this person still feels alive, if the image had been cropped as I have cropped it originally it would be difficult for me to realize the person had been dead for some time.

    I see the beauty of what it is to be alive, a figure posed in a way that makes me feel as if someone is just relaxing. I do not see a formeraly suffering dismembered victim of a concentration camp.. I see the opposite.. Instead of disrespect for life I see a legitimate affirmation of what photography can do to alter perspective. Whereas if I might have been in the room with the man on the table I might been worrying about the various smells that go along with it (I have been in a morgue and dealt with the dead after an autopsy), as well as the general feeling I get when in a room with a dead person. Here, I feel a tremendous respect for the person on the table and the way the photographer has presented them in a way that makes my mind completely void of feelings of death and dismembermend but thinking mostly of how being "alive" really looks, and how fleating life can be.. I see the beauty of life.. A sense of spirit in the individual, that something 'alive' is still there.. I credit the photographer with being able to do this as in my experiences with the dead there was never a time when I got the feelings I do when seeing this photograph.
     

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  20. Patrick Quinn

    Patrick Quinn Inactive

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    Most of my career has been as a scenes of crime officer and a forensics investigator, so it is a bit too much like work for me.

    But I can see the value of the work in today's society, especially when we sanitize death so much.
     
  21. catem

    catem Member

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    Hmmm ....difficult.

    It's not 'the being' who's doing the expressing though - the rather nonchalant crossing of feet when, really, that's more or less all you can do when all you have left is feet and legs...and a useless appendage...

    It's not 'him' though, he's dead, (if it is indeed a real corpse, I don't know the details)..No need to ask consent, then, no need to consider the individual...do these kind of considerations disappear after death, I wonder?

    It's not the dead 'being' who's doing the expressing, it's the photographer, expressing his own fears, confronting his own devils, possibly wanting to foist them upon us....the 'legs' (etc.) are just props. Propping up his own ideas.

    So - I wonder - is it acceptable to reduce dead people to the level of props?

    Is what he has to say - whatever it is - worth it? If the answer is 'no' then I think in this case his transgression (transgressing itself is not necessarily a bad thing) is unnacceptable.

    Cate
     
  22. catem

    catem Member

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    Yes, we do this too much, and I agree there is much to be gained from a greater acceptance of dead bodies as part of everyday life.

    I'm not sure this is the way to do it, precisely because of the dissonance I feel between the dead body and the 'pose' (unnatural).

    Dead bodies need to be photographed in a way that does not rely only upon shock value - which can't be denied here.

    I see too much manipulation, in more ways than one, for it to be a helpful image in terms of reducing the stigma about death.

    Cate
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2006
  23. mark

    mark Member

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    Please explain "sanatize death"

    I am afraid I do not understand the statement.
     
  24. catem

    catem Member

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    Sanitize death - pretend it's not there, don't talk about it, don't see it, don't deal with dead bodies, sweep the whole subject under the carpet.

    e.g. we don't tend to keep the bodies of loved ones at home (when death occurs at hom) - they are whisked away to the morgue. We don't tend to have wakes with the body in the coffin at home any more.

    Death isn't such an omnipresent part of life in the way it used to be - well, it is, but people live longer, survive illnesses better....if we could we'd pretend it didn't exixt..

    BUT I'm not sure that this sort of image helps an acceptance of death, if that is a reason or justification. I think for a lot of people it would do the opposite.

    And, of course, the idea of 'sanitizing death' is very culture-driven. For many people in the world death and dead bodies is unfortunately an unavoidable part of everyday life. Only some of us have the luxury of appearing to avoid it's reality...

    Cate
     
  25. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Interesting questions.

    I would ask the same question about another subject matter. In a photograph of a tree at dawn, who is doing the expressing? Is it the tree or is it the photographer? Would the tree have expressed without the participation of the photographer? The photographer could have expressed him/her self in other ways and with other subject matter, it seems to me. Is it wrong to use the prop of the tree, in this instance, to express what the photographer wishes to express?

    It seems to me that Witkin's work evokes immediate visceral responses from most people who see it. Does that make it bad? Perhaps he is holding aspects of our life before us and causes us to confront that which we would rather escape...or at least not think of.

    I can well imagine that those who think of "art" and "beauty" in the same context would have a bit of problem with these depictions. But is art necessarily about beauty? And if not than whose problem is the response, is that the fault of Witkin or is it a problem that resides in the psyche of the viewer?
     
  26. catem

    catem Member

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    In my view a tree does not express anything. Expression is fundamentally a human attribute. A person can find a tree 'expressive' but the tree... is just a tree.

    The difference is - a tree is not and has never been a person. Also - it's not that I have a problem with images of dead people - he's by no means the only photographer to do this - it's the manner in which he has chosen to do it, in which I feel the presence of his ego too much for my liking.

    .

    Indeed he is doing this, which in itself is perfectly laudable. The question is, is he doing it in an acceptable way?

    I think that's letting him off the hook..... And laying far too much at the viewer's door, in this particular case.
    Cate