FROM BEING AN OLYMPIC ATHLETE AND AN INTERNATIONAL RENOWNED ACROBAT TO LIVING IN HOMELESS SHELTERS, SHOOTING HEROINE AND BEING DECLARED DEATH. DO YOU THINK IT SEEMS LIKE A STRETCH? THAN THINK AGAIN. BECAUSE IT IS THE HARROWING JOURNEY, THE LIFE STORY OF JOE PUTIGNANO. JOE LIVED A LIFE OF DREAMS THAT TURNED INTO THE WORST NIGHTMARES YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. AND, SURPRISINGLY AND AGAINST ALL ODDS, SURVIVED HIS ROAD TO HELL AND LIVES TO TELL.
Joe Putignano is a former youth champion gymnast, was part of an elite college gymnastics team and had his sights set on the Olympics. Until a severe drug addiction derailed his dreams. Within 2 years, Joe had dropped out of college and found himself in a homeless shelter. The start of nearly a decade in which he waddled through periods of sobriety, and ruing which heroin became a part of his life and the cause of 2 cardiac deaths within 24 hours during a severe overdose. Against all odds Joe survived and was able to turn his life around. Since 7 years Joe Putignano is sober. He made a triumphant return to the sport he loves by working more than 3 years as an acrobat wit Cirque du Soleil and eventually found the strength within himself to tell his remarkable story in his memoir Acrobaddict.
Pierre-Yves Monnerville is a French Caribbean photographer based in the United Kingdom. Already on many occasions we have featured his fantastic work which shows a fine combination of male physique and fine art nudes and fashion and fitness photography. Back in 2006 Pierre-Yves happened to enjoy a show of the famous Cirque du Soleil when the group of acrobats toured the United Kingdom, without knowing he was watching a performance of Joe Putignano. It was years later that he met Joe for a first photo session in New York City. It was then when he learned about Joe’s extraordinary life story and when the first chains of a friendship were formed.
Acrobaddict is a story about the close relationship between athletics and drug addiction. How the same energy, obsession, and dedication that can create an Olympic athlete can also create a homeless drug addict. The balancing act of sobriety. And a horrific story that clearly shows Joe Putignano is much more than another pretty face. Pierre-Yves Monnerville shot Joe for a second time in new York City. At his apartment this time, where Joe posed in – yes – a coffin. Pierre-Yves recalls: “The coffin is his and normally used as shelf to display a collection of animal skulls and other macabre artefacts and drawings. He was casually saying that depending on his family's decision he'll probably be buried or cremated in this very coffin... It's great to see how happy and good he looks after being homeless and clinically dead when he was using heroin. He's a great inspiration.”
The decision of Joe Putignano to be photographed in his coffin, a combination of male beauty against a symbol of finality, shows his remarkable spirit. Joe went through hell and back, was able to turn his life that somehow had arrived at a devastating path, around. Joe laughed in the face of death but will never forget how close he got to total self-destruction. These portraits of a very healthy and happy looking Joe Putignano are a testimony to this exceptional mans strength and will to live, and an example to all. –BM-
JOE PUTIGNANO | BEAUTIFULMAG
PIERRE-YVES MONNERVILLE | BEAUTIFULMAG