Taryn Simon

August 6, 2011

I started loving Taryn Simon’s work when I saw ‘The Innocents’ years ago. After ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’ my admiration grew and looking now at her work in the Tate ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and other Chapters’, it grew even more.

My respect results not just from her project ideas and the incredible amount of research involved but also from her way to execute the ideas.

Her latest project consists of 18 slightly strange or unsettling stories of 18 different family blood lines: an Iraqi man who was apparently employed as Saddam Hussein’s son’s body double; a member of the Druze religious sect in Lebanon who believes in reincarnation and re-enacts remembered scenes from previous lives; a living Indian man who gives the project its title, having been declared dead in official records.

Besides the interesting content of the project and each chapter itself I find two elements for my work especially inspiring.

Firstly, the format: The fact that she constructs each chapter through three parts, a portrait panel which systematically orders the members of a specific blood line, a text panel which provides information about the actual story and a footnote panel which contains images that represent fragments of the overall story (personal belongings, artefacts). The text becomes in each chapter as important as the images itself. Therefore, it weakens the long-held understanding that a good photograph should speak for itself.

Secondly, I find it amazing how she intertwines the genres of photojournalism and art. The project is in its heart so photojournalistic and yet she manages to present the stories in such an artistic way which still remain accessible for a wider audience.

“‘A Living Man Declared Dead’ is a really important work because it draws on various often exclusive traditions. It has the tenacity we associate with photojournalism and the practices and presentation of art photography. In a way, it’s bringing the real world – politics in the broadest sense – into galleries and museums. That is not an easy thing to do, but photography can do it very well and this particular show is an amazing example of a complex and ambitious project that contains within its presentation all the things you need to understand about it.” (Simon Baker in the Guardian 22.05.2011)

Watch Taryn Simon talk about her latest project.

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One Response to “Taryn Simon”


  1. I’m a total fan too. Hope new house nice. x


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