Taryn Simon is one of the most intriguing and unclassifiable photographers working today.
Eschewing simple documentary images or the abstraction of fine art photography she has carved out a niche that is somewhere between the two.
Her book ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’ is a fascinating look at the places and objects that are kept secret from society, from an avian quarantine facility to a federally funded marijuana plantation.
While ‘Contraband’ features images of objects confiscated from passengers by US Customs officials
Her latest work, which I’ve seen at both the Tate Modern in London and MoMA, is titled ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and other Chapters’. Simon travelled round the world researching bloodlines and their related stories. These stories were as diverse as images of infected rabbits in Australia to the first woman to hijack an aircraft and her relatives.
Like Contraband, it’s a theme that excites the imagination but visually features very simple almost passport photo style images, as if anything more prosaic would get in the way of the stories she is trying to illustrate.
These images are records of subjects as if she were a bureaucrat collected and collecting information for a file.
That doesn’t stop us from thinking about the meaning of what we are seeing and also from wondering at the strange mystery of the world that allows a living man to be declared dead.