Joel-Peter Witkin
[Photographer, b. 1939, Brooklyn, New York, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.]

 My grandmother had only one leg and in the morning I would wake up and smell her gangrenous leg. Where most kids would wake up and smell coffee, I would wake up and smell grandmother’s rotting leg. 
 In order to know if I were truly alive, I’d make the invisible visible! Photography would be the means to bring God down to earth—to exist for me in the photographic images I would create. I believe that all my photographs are incarnations, representing the form and substance of what my mind sees and attempts to understand. 
 I [print] myself because that, for me, is the decisive moment: you can change the meaning of a photograph by how you print it. 
 Actually there are two decisive moments: the first when I record something with the camera, the second when I print. What I’m showing you here are not just mechanical records, but final objects, representing interactions between such records and myself. I draw on the negative, or scratch it, or take things out. 
 We’re here, we’re living, because we’re not completely clear, we have to become clear. The darkness within us sometimes is so dark that for me it becomes very fascinating. What I really want is this really humble, individual connection, not with a religious institution, but with the living Christ. Whatever it takes in a positive way to get there, I’ll get there. The best means, it seems, of getting there is the aesthetic means of photography. 
 Artists are the people among us who realize creation didn’t stop on the sixth day. 
 At the moment of photography I act instantaneously and instinctively. At the moment of printing I take time for esthetic decisions for which I didn’t have time with the camera, I re-design the image into something more powerful, more mysterious. 
 My art is the way I perceive and define life. It is sacred work, since what I make are my prayers. These works are the measure of my character, the transfiguration of love and desire, and, finally, the quality of my soul. 
quotes 17-24 of 26
first page previous page page 3 of 4 next page last page
display quotes