American artist Joel-Peter Witkin is renowned for creating imagery which disrupts conventional notions of mortality, desire and spirituality. Drawing from a wide range of sources — including early photographic history and Daguerreotype techniques, religion, and painting ranging from Caravaggio and Giotto to Picasso and Balthus — Witkin develops elaborate, surreal scenes that feature people often relegated to society’s margins, as well as cadavers and dismembered limbs.
Born in Brooklyn in 1939, Witkin’s dark sensibilities were formed during childhood. He witnessed a fatal car accident at a young age in which a girl was decapitated. Growing up he collected news clippings about outcasts and illnesses; as a teen in the mid-1950s, used his first camera to document Coney Island sideshow performers. In the 1960s, Witkin served as a photographer during the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged he became the official photographer for “City Walls, NYC”; an organization that produced murals throughout the five boroughs. He studied sculpture at Cooper Union in 1974 and was granted a fellowship in poetry from Columbia University. In 1976 he moved to New Mexico, and earned a MFA in photography from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he currently lives and works.
Witkin employs a variety of techniques in creating his images — piercing and scratching the negatives, and experimenting with various techniques during the printing process. By centering and eroticizing deformity and the macabre, Witkin’s transgressive images challenge the viewers’ perceptions of beauty. Witkin has said his work, "reflects the insanity of life."
This fall, Supreme will release a collection featuring three of Joel-Peter Witkin’s images: Mother and Child (With Retractor, Screaming), Harvest, and Sanitarium, which inspired Alexander McQueen’s iconic “Asylum” presentation in 2001. The Supreme collection features a Hooded Sweatshirt and two T-Shirts.
Available September 24th.
Available in Japan September 26th.