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

 My purpose is to acknowledge the wonder of being part of Creation. Though I myself don’t create anything; I make from what has been created. 
 I never photograph anything I don’t believe in. If I love working with death, it’s because even in death I find this power of reality that no sculptor or painter could recreate, not even a Michelangelo or a Da Vinci. 
 To me extreme things are like miracles. There is nothing as boring as a person who is just okay. But I could easily live in a world populated with these disjunctive, bizarre things... I operate out of confusion, towards clarity. 
 I’ve come to realize that the mark is the primal gesture, the internal connection of the caveman to the cosmos; an impossibility similar to an impulse in an insect’s nervous system that it could somehow reduce to dust a steel beam by endlessly crawling over it. 
 If there is pain in my photographs, it relates to the pain in my own existence. 
 I wanted my photographs to be as powerful as the last thing a person sees or remembers before death. 
 My first conscious recollection was when I was 6 years old. 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 through the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident had 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 ask it—but before I could touch it—someone carried me away. 
 I have consecrated my life to changing matter into spirit with the hope of one day seeing it all. Seeing in its total form, while wearing the mask, from the distance of death. And there, in the eternal destiny, to seek the face I had before the world was made. 
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