Day 141: Taryn Simon photographs secret places

Taryn Simon takes photographs of the parts of America most people never see. 90% of her process involves writing letters and campaigning to gain access to her subjects. After September 11th, while everybody else looked outside of America for clues to its enemies, Simon began a series of photographs titled, ‘The American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar.’ There’s a picture of the channel, ‘AlHurra’, funded by the U.S. government which broadcasts daily throughout Arab nations ( yet is illegal to show in the States), a photograph of the contraband room at J.F.K. Airport, an image of a 21-year-old Palestinian girl undergoing a hymenoplasty.
She then shows us images from another project, ‘Innocence’, in which she photographed crime ‘perpetrators’ who had been wrongly identified. She photographed all the convicted at scenes relevant to them, for example the scene of the crime to which they’d never been, yet which had changed their lives forever, trying to show the tenuous link between the truth and fiction. One example was that of Ron Williamson, who served eleven years for the rape and murder of a barmaid, where the key witness for the prosecution turned out to be the actual perpetrator. Ron was photographed on a baseball field as shortly before his arrest he’d just been signed by the Oakland As.
Photography can distort fantasy. Simon leaves us with a self-portrait, showing how distortion is a constant and our eyes are easily deceived.


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