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

 I wanted my photographs to be as powerful as the last thing a person sees or remembers before death. 
 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. 
 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. 
 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. 
 If there is pain in my photographs, it relates to the pain in my own existence. 
 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. 
 People who hate what I make hate me, too. They must think I am a demon or some kind of evil sorcerer. Those who understand what I do appreciate the determination, love, and courage it takes to find wonder and beauty in people who are considered by society to be damaged, unclean, dysfunctional, or wretched. 
 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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