Las Meninas, NM, 1987

In this Seminar we looked at Joel Peter Witkin and Diane Arbus, who are iconic photographers, the first Joel Peter-Witkin finds beauty in the horrifying and grotesque, and people who have been affected by these and often get ignored by society. For example he photographs those with physical disabilities, dwarfs, those capable of strange physical things, those who have had amputated limbs and hermaphrodites. He also photographed those with strange fetishes, he explores spiritualtiy and how it impacts the world on a physical level. He photographs these people in a very unusual way, he references icons of traditional art history for backdrops, and as the jumping off point for his ideas, for example : Le Bain ou Le Dejeuner sur I’herbe, 1862 by Manet,

image 24

I think in a way he parodies historical art pieces to show new ideas. Manet has also influenced alot of other artists in this way.  He uses photographic styles that are accepted, but uses the context of the background and the idea from the historical painting to show his obscure subjects transforming into art, there are 2 images of women in particular that at first i just thought were beautiful women photographed to represent historical women, Venus and Cleopatra, but they are actually hermaphrodites and his at first subtle inclusion of them i think represents his aim to include them in areas of society they may have been excluded from previously. Like these hermaphrodite women wouldnt have been approached to be a photographers model, once it became known that they were the way they were, but Joel Peter Witkin approaches them because of this and tries to welcome them into a world that initially shunned them, highlighting their differences in a way that at first isn’t obvious, so people appreciate their visual beauty first before realising they have been appreciating someone they previously scorned.

Joel Peter Witkin went on to influence other artists and designers, such as below his photograph of an obese woman hooked up to breathing apparatus influenced the 2001 Alexander McQueen collection. JPW is the first image.



Diane Arbus:

Diane Arbus was an American Photographer and like JPW she photographed those who were deemed “Ugly or Surreal”, she was known as the photographer of freaks, she believed the camera could be cold and harsh and highlight the truth and peoples flaws rather than what people wanted to be. I think she’d be horrified by photoshop nowadays. She killed herself in 1971, after experiencing depressive episodes and the effects of hepatitus. Her photographs were critiscized for showing her subjects in a negative light, maybe because they were all black and white. She photographed alot of children, which i think look a bit haunting, hence why her work was used as a reference and has influenced representation of children, especially twins in films like the Shining and Tim Burtons “Alice in Wonderland”, she also influenced a Donna Karen fashion show where all the models were twins. Her subjects looked quite expressionless.

DA and DK images

This seminar has helped me to begin looking for links between artists work, because all artists are influenced by other artists, i was inspired by Mark Ryden’s doll like girls, to create my own doll like surreal representations of girls which i think are helping to shape my artistic identity.





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