The macabre finds Witkin as a child

Joel-Peter Witkin
Joel-Peter Witkin

While still young, Joel-Peter Witkin witnessed a car accident in which a young girl was decapitated.

In adulthood, he claims his camera was, in part, his response to that incident, according to a profile by Salon.com.

In his illustrious career of creating images that include corpses found in a Mexico City morgue, monkeys and bearded women, Witkin has wrangled with mortality, religion, sex, excess and societal norms.

Excerpts from his 1989 book, Gods of Earth and Heaven, provide a peek at Witkin’s sometimes nightmarish, sometimes beautiful vison, brought to you by Salon.com.