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Artist Cynosure 

Worthy of mention, breath-taking, haunting, and lumiary photos by past masters, as well as local photographers whose work will light up your day...

IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM was an American photographer who was dubbed Bohemnian and fiercely independent, born April 12, 1883 and died in June 24, 1974. I love her botanical photos, as well as her nudes, which to me resemble giant river rocks, or other natural elements. Subject matter ranged from portraiture, botanicals, landscapes, and self-portraits.


When she went to Hollywood to photography some famous people, she was asked: "They asked me what I would like to photograph. I said, Ugly men." Those ugly stars were Cary Grant, James Cagney, and Spencer Tracy.  Mostly reknown for her iconic portraits of Frida Kahlo in the 1920s. She photographed Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, Theodore Rotheke, Marcia Miner, Morris Graves, Ruth Aswald, and was good friends with Ansel Adams andUNDER CONSTRUCTION... Edward Weston. 


For more information on her collections there are some great books "Portraiture," "On The Body," "Flora," and the best biography is by Richard Lorenz "Imogen Cunningham: Ideas Without End."


"I don't think there's any such thing as teaching people photography, other than influencing them a little.

People have to be their own learners. They have to have a certain talent."

- Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham



Imogen Cunningham

"Male Nude Study"


Imogen Cunningham

"Rainwater on Oregon beach"


Imogen Cunningham

Mills College Amphitheatre


Imogen Cunningham



Imogen Cunningham



Imogen Cunningham

Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather 





'Such is the power of the image: It heals only those who know what it is. For everybody else it is an illness' --Robert Calasso


JOEL PETER-WITKIN (born 13th September, 1939) is an American photographer, sculptor, and Master of Fine Arts. Most people would think of a squeamish, or squirm inducing because of his love for using unusual, shocking, and non-sterotypically beautiful subjects that make people uncomfortable, or the use of cadavers, body parts, and themes of death and sexuality. His use of the theatrical transgressive "tableaux" or still life capturing sublime moments, death moments, that hearken back to the Baroque style paintings like that of Caravaggio, mixed with historical ambrotype photography techniques to create a truly haunting and unique vision of the world. Truly memorable!!! His unflinching gaze stares into the abyss of oblivion, he explains to Jeanne Storck in "Band of Outsiders: Williamsburg's Renegade Artists," on, that his path was determined at an early age, after seeing death first hand, a tragic accident involving a dismemberment:


"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 down the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screaming and cries for help. The accident 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 speak to it -- but before I could touch it someone carried me away."


About Joel Peter-Witkins work: "The acts are horrific, and Witkin's gods are not the usual ones. He has contrived a whole new pantheon of supernaturals from real human afflictions."


His most recent museum/gallery exhibits are: "Heaven and Hell" featured in the National Library of France in Paris, and "Vanitas: Joel Peter-Witkin en Chile" at the National Library.


The photos I have selected are just a taste of his extreme vision, prepare to be shocked and disturbed, or even offended by his mutilated subject matter, but after all, the best art usually does shock, titilate, unnerve, or is at least a little bit chilling. 


"If Witkin's excess engenders revulsion, even among sophisticats, it also serves a purpose. Veiled in dry, saturnine light, the ghastly emblems are best understood as moral cryptograms. They catalogue an underworld of humours out of balance. Transcending the particulars of studio artifice, they intimate the vast complexities of the human psyche. As ineffable dream fragments of collective memory, they are meant to mirror our own unfathomed darkness." -by Euginia Perry in WITKIN, the Phaidon 55 series on books.


The photography of Joel Peter-Witkin even inspired the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen's 2001 collection, see my upcoming blog "Fashion Imitating Art: Sanitorium"  


For more information on this amazing artist, there is a great documentary, released in 2013, by Thomas Marino called " Joel Peter-Witkin: An Objective Eye."


PHOTO SOURCES: From the web page THE ORDER OF THE GOOD DEATH, article "After Joel Peter-Witkin".


1) Harvest, 1984


2) Still Life With Mirror, 1998


3) Feast of Fools, 1990


All images Copyright Joel Peter-Witkin


PHOTO SOURCES: From the web page


1) Who Naked Is, 1996


2) Teatro di Morte, 1989


3) Las Meninas, 1987


4) Hand and Foot


5) Woman with Blue Hat, 1985


6) Human Oddity Melvin Burkhardt


7) Nude with Severed Heads


8) Satiro, 1990


9) Portrait of a Dwarf, 1987


All images Copyright Joel Peter-Witkin




© Copyright 2019 by Carmen Zavislake. Proudly created with

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