Taryn Simon (born 1975) is an American fine art photographer. She is a graduate of Brown University and a Guggenheim Fellow. She was born in New York, and currently is an assignment photographer for the New York Times Magazine.
Her photography and writing have been featured in numerous publications and broadcasts including the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, CNN, BBC, Frontline, and NPR. Simon has been a visiting artist at institutions including Yale University, Bard College, Columbia University, School of Visual Arts, and Parsons School of Design.
Her series The Innocents documents cases of wrongful conviction in the United States and investigates the role of photography in that process. Her most recent body of work is a series of photographs titled An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar. Simon is also known for her photographs documenting international regions in turmoil.
The Innocents (2003)
The Innocents documents the stories of individuals who served time in prison for violent crimes they did not commit. At issue is the question of photography’s function as a credible eyewitness and arbiter of justice.
An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007)
For this project, artist Taryn Simon assumes the dual role of shrewd informant and collector of curiosities, compiling an inventory of what lies hidden and out-of-view within the borders of the United States. She examines a culture through careful documentation of diverse subjects from the realms of science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion. Transforming the unknown into a seductive and intelligible form, Simon confronts the divide between those with and without the privilege of access.
Simon makes use of the annotated-photograph’s capacity to engage and inform the public. Through text and image, the work underscores the complicated relationship between a photograph and its context. The visual is processed aesthetically and then re-defined by its text.
Her sometimes ethereal, sometimes foreboding compositions, shot with a large-format view camera over a four-year period, vary as much as her subject matter, which ranges from radioactive capsules at a nuclear waste storage facility to a black bear in hibernation.
In examining that which is integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, Simon creates a collection of works that reflect and reveal a national identity. The publication features 70 colour plates and Salman Rushdie wrote the foreword to accompany the book. Ronald Dworkin contributed a commentary, while curators Elisabeth Sussman and Tina Kukielski of the Whitney Museum of American Art contributed an introduction. It was published by Steidl and exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2006. As of late 2007 it was on view at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany.
Here is a photographer I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at if I saw her work while researching. But as I had to do a presentation on her, I had to look closely at her images. I still am quite on the fence about her work, it may have a clear message to get across but the images wouldn’t work without the long description of text. This is just my opinion though, and I don’t want to make anybody else feel the same way. I really do like the messages in her images, showing us the hidden things, the innocent people and things we never think about.