Tag Archives: Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon: ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII’

If Taryn Simon hadn’t become a photographer, she could have made a fortune in sales, because she has persuasive powers that the rest of us can only dream of. For her 2007 exhibition and book An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, she got herself admitted to dozens of places where outsiders with cameras aren’t usually allowed, including a nuclear-waste storage facility and a reconstructed crime scene at a forensic research center, complete with a rotting corpse. For another project, Contraband, she persuaded the wary authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport to let her photograph every item seized by customs over a five-day period, from counterfeit Viagra to cow-dung toothpaste. Despite a personal manner that’s the last word in low-key, she has a way of getting what she wants. “If somebody closes the door,” she says, “I have to find another way to get in.”

Simon, 37, had to find a lot of ways in for her new show, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, which is on view through Sept. 3 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City before moving to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The organizing principle for this project is what she calls bloodlines: all the living descendants, plus any living forebears, of a single man or woman who sets a story in motion. Traveling to 25 countries, Simon tracked down hundreds of family members bound together by not just genealogy but often some curious or painful fate.

Read more about Taryn Simon in this week’s issue of TIME: There Will Be Bloodlines

Corinne May Botz

I love ghost stories and anything that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, so I was immediately drawn to the work of Corinne May Botz . The first image on her website gives you a clue into her work:

Parsonage Parlor (doll), from The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Corinne is “an artist who investigates the perception of space and our emotional connections to architecture and objects”. She also is a story teller, exploring terrain that is uncomfortable and invisible. For her project, Haunted Houses, the use of suggestive imagery and digital recordings of shared ghost stories combine to stir our imaginations into other realms. Her work is currently on exhibition as part of the Crime Unseen show at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois that will run through January 15, 2012. The exhibition also features the work of Richard Barnes, Christopher Dawson, Deborah Luster, Christian Patterson, Taryn Simon, Angela Strassheim and Krista Wortendyke. On December 1st, Corinne will lecture at The Glessner House Museum in Chicago.

Corinne received her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and her MFA from The Milton-Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. Her photographs have been internationally exhibited including shows at Wurttembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, Germany; Bellwether Gallery in New York City; Hemphill Fine Arts in Washington D.C.; The Center for Contemporary Art, Torun, Poland and The Kennedy Museum in Athens, Ohio. She is the author of Haunted Houses (The Monacelli Press, 2010) and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (The Monacelli Press, 2004). Her work has been reviewed by publications including The New York Times, Village Voice, BookForum, and Modern Painters. She is the recipient of residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; Atlantic Center for the Arts; Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellowship in Stuttgart; Germany, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Haunted Houses is a long-term project in which I photographed and collected oral ghosts stories in over eighty haunted sites throughout the United States. The series was inspired by turn of the century spirit photographs and Victorian ghost stories written by women as a means of articulating domestic discontents. In being the medium through which the spirit of these houses was recorded, I continued the tradition of female sensitivity to the supernatural. When I photographed in haunted houses, I tried to open myself to the invisible nuances of a space. I photographed using a large format camera, with exposures often ranging from a few seconds to a few hours. Though the medium of the visible, photography makes the invisible apparent. By collecting extensive evidence of the surface, one becomes aware of what is missing, and a space is provided for the viewer to imagine the invisible.

Private Residence, Rhinebeck, New York

Haunted Houses provides a unique way of understanding our relationship to the spaces we inhabit, and reflects romantic and dystopian notions of the domestic realm. The notion of hauntedness activates and highlights the home, revealing the hidden narratives and possibilities of everyday life.

Apartment No.2, Brooklyn, New York

Haunted Houses includes an archive of first-hand ghost stories. The stories were collected on location and over the phone. They range in length from a few minutes to an hour. The voice is captured much like the space. Both image and text are haunted by absence, history, memory, and the possibility of never being seen or heard. Unlike the majority of horror films where the ghosts arrive as a result of an inopportune death, or to right a wrong, the inhabitants of these houses are often at a loss for why the ghosts are there, and in some cases the ghost is considered a source of comfort.

The Roehrs House, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey

La Posada Hotel,Winslow, Arizona

Private Residence, Hawthorne, New Jersey

Old Bermuda Inn, Staten Island, New York

El Rancho, Las Vegas, Nevada

Atlas Theatre, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Private Residence, Clinton, Maine

La Petite Theatre, New Orleans, Louisiana

The New York Times Magazine Photographs Panel Discussion at B&N

Join us for a panel discussion with longtime photo editor Kathy Ryan. She will discuss her new book, The New York Times Magazine Photographs (Aperture, 2011) at Barnes and Noble, along with photographers Gregory Crewdson and Taryn Simon.

The book reflects upon and interrogates the nature of both photography and print magazines, at this pivotal moment in their history and evolution. It presents some of the finest commissioned photographs worldwide of various types, including reportage, portraiture, style, conceptual photography, and photo illustration. Also addressed are issues of documentary photography in relation to more conceptual photography; the efficacy of storytelling; and what makes an image evidentiary, objective, subjective, truthful, or a tool for advocacy; as well as discussion of whether these matters are currently moot, or more critical than ever. As such, The New York Times Magazine Photographs aims to serve as a springboard for a rigorous, necessary, and revitalized examination of photography as presented within a modern journalistic context.

Kathy Ryan (editor) is the award-winning photo editor of the New York Times Magazine. Ryan was recognized as Canon Picture Editor of the Year in 1997 at the Visa Pour l’Image festival in Perpignan, France, and in 2003 was named Picture Editor of the Year by the Lucie Awards.

Thursday, November 17, 2011
7:00 pm

FREE

Barnes & Noble Bookstore
150 East 86th Street
New York, New York
(212) 369-2180

Crime Unseen opens Thursday with a Gallery Talk and Reception

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Christian Patterson, House at Night; Courtesy of the artist.

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Angela Strassheim, Evidence No. 4; Courtesy of the artist.

When a violent crime happens, it sends a shock that can be felt long afterward in the people and places affected. Our newest exhibition, Crime Unseen, explores the lingering affects of violent crime. Join us on Thursday, for a preview of the exhibition with a gallery talk and reception from 4 to 7 p.m.

Beginning at 4 p.m., exhibiting artists Angela Strassheim and Christian Patterson will lead guests through the museum, discussing the pieces they have on display, all of which examine real-life crime scenes long after the crimes have been committed.

From 5 to 7 p.m., guests can mingle with the visiting artists and get a sneak-peek of the exhibition, which opens on Friday. Admission is free and open to the public.

Crime Unseen, which runs through January 15, 2012, features work by Richard Barnes, Corinne May Botz, Christopher Dawson, Deborah Luster, Christian Patterson, Taryn Simon, Angela Strassheim and Krista Wortendyke. To learn more about the exhibition, read curator Karen Irvine�??s curatorial essay.

More about the lecture artists:

In her work, Strassheim seeks out homes where violent acts and murders have occurred. Using a chemical spray called Blue Star, she reveals remnants of blood remaining on surfaces long after they have been cleaned and repainted, exposing the disconnect between the banality of seemingly normal surfaces and the violent history sometimes concealed within.

Similarly, Patterson exposes the long life of violent crime by following the trail of teenage lovers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who, in the winter of 1957-58, committed a string of murders in Nebraska and Wyoming. By taking photographs and documents stemming directly from their crimes, Patterson focuses on the inherent emotional responses people have toward these objects even before they know the objects’ dark origins.

Taryn Simon

Yet another fantastic multimedia production from Tate Shots, this piece on American photographer Taryn Simon (see Susan Bright’s article in #10 of 1000 Words) focuses on her new exhibition at Tate Modern ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters’. Simon mixes photography and text in a series works that chart family bloodlines. At the heart of each group of photographic portraits, carefully arranged as 18 horizontal family trees, is a compelling story. One set documents the relatives of an Iraqi man who was a body double for Saddam Hussein’s son; another show members of a religious sect in Lebanon who believe in reincarnation; while the exhibition title comes from a work about a living Indian man who was declared dead in official records. From feuding families in Brazil to victims of genocide in Bosnia, Simon forms a collection that maps the relationships between chance, blood and other components of fate.

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

Taryn Simon

Yet another fantastic multimedia production from Tate Shots, this piece on American photographer Taryn Simon (see Susan Bright’s article in #10 of 1000 Words) focuses on her new exhibition at Tate Modern ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters’. Simon mixes photography and text in a series works that chart family bloodlines. At the heart of each group of photographic portraits, carefully arranged as 18 horizontal family trees, is a compelling story. One set documents the relatives of an Iraqi man who was a body double for Saddam Hussein’s son; another show members of a religious sect in Lebanon who believe in reincarnation; while the exhibition title comes from a work about a living Indian man who was declared dead in official records. From feuding families in Brazil to victims of genocide in Bosnia, Simon forms a collection that maps the relationships between chance, blood and other components of fate.

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)

But is it photography?

Thomas-Demand.jpg

By now you might have heard of Sean O’Hagan raising a ruckus about the Deutsche Börse Prize and the Photographers’ Gallery. Apparently, there has been some debate about the gallery, which I haven’t followed. If what I see is correct, it’s about whether or not the gallery’s curators are doing a good enough job picking photography. O’Hagan uses this as a backdrop to complain about the Deutsche Börse Prize: “I have already written on this subject with regards to the Photographers’ Gallery, and stand by my conclusion that it should rebrand the Deutsche Börse as a conceptual photography prize.” (more)

First of all, I always finding arguing about prizes a bit silly, because, let’s face it, a prize is a prize. There might be a lot of money attached to it, but we’re not really talking about the Nobel Prize here. And even the Nobel prizes have these kinds of debates every year. Just look at how people complain about how the “wrong” person won the Peace or Literature Prize.

That aside, here’s the Deutsche Börse shortlist from 2010: Anna Fox, Zoe Leonard, Sophie Ristelhueber (winner), Donovan Wylie. Here’s 2009: Paul Graham (winner), Emily Jacir, Tod Papageorge, Taryn Simon. Here’s 2008: John Davies, Jacob Holdt, Esko Männikkö (winner), Fazal Sheikh. And let’s do one more, 2007: Philippe Chancel, Anders Petersen, Fiona Tan, The Atlas Group (winner). We can probably all agree that that’s a pretty diverse group of photographers, isn’t it? Would it make sense to rebrand the Deutsche Börse Prize as a conceptual photography prize given the variety of photographers shortlisted over the past years? You decide.

But there’s more. In his article, O’Hagan then singles out Thomas Demand and discusses his work, writing “Demand is essentially an installation artist, who builds three-dimensional, life-size replicas of places he has come across in found photographs.” (That’s a Thomas Demand photo at the top of this post) As you can imagine this set-up inevitably leads to the question: “The question is, though, is he the most intriguing photographer? Is he a photographer at all?”

The first question is either yes or no, depending on whether you think Demand is the most intriguing photographer. I don’t think so, but I’m perfectly happy with other people disagreeing with me. I’m not the biggest fan of conceptual photography, because for me, it’s usually too obvious. But should Thomas Demand win the Prize (I have no idea), I’m perfectly happy with that. You can say whatever you want but Demand’s approach to investigating what images say and mean is pretty unique.

The second question really gets me, though. Is Thomas Demand a photographer at all? Well, let’s see. When I go to an art gallery to look at a Thomas Demand exhibition, what do I see? Photographs on the wall. You can’t miss them. They’re huge. So why is Demand not a photographer?

OK, I was a bit facetious there. But still… Of course, Demand photographs installations that he creates based on older photographs. The end product – that is photography. Demand is not showing the sets he builds. In a sense, the sets are irrelevant for what he is after. To focus on the sets is like focusing on the fruits and vegetables in a still life and to then argue that the photographer is in fact in the fruits and vegetable business.

Photography has come a long(ish) way (let’s try to remember photography’s real age compared with other arts forms). It now contains a plethora of different types and ideas, ranging from street photography to photography done by machines, with a ton of stuff in between. Each of those different types offers different things. The real promise of contemporary photography lies not in what one type has to offer, but in the combination of what all of them combined have to offer. For any one type we should not be asking “Is it photography?” We should be asking “What is this type of photography doing? What is it telling us?”

And we might not like one type (or more than one). But I think we should be careful not to exclude some types of photography simply because we don’t like them, or because they’re not “photographic” (or orthodox) enough. Photography is what it is, and over the next decades it will probably include even more types. That’s what makes contemporary photography so exciting.

Prix Pictet photography prize: 12 finalists

Twelve great photographers have been chosen as finalists for the prestigious Prix Pictet award, which focuses this year on the theme of “Growth”. Lens Culture is happy to present an overview of the nominated work in a high-resolution slideshow. The winner will be announced in Paris on Thursday March 17 by HE Kofi Annan.

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One of the twelve finalists for Prix Pictet 2011
© Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo, Nominated for The Hell of Copper, 2009

According to the official statement:

“The jury looked for photographic series of the highest artistic merit that also presented a convincing narrative about the critical issues of sustainability and in particular, the theme of Growth. Growth, which lifts countless millions out of poverty, also has a huge and potentially unsustainable environmental cost. It presents one of the great conundrums facing humanity in the early decades of the twenty-first century.”

The shortlisted artists are:

Christian Als (Denmark)
Edward Burtynsky (Canada)
Stéphane Couturier (France)
Mitch Epstein (US)
Chris Jordan (US)
Yeondoo Jung (Korea)
Vera Lutter (Germany)
Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Taryn Simon (US)
Thomas Struth (Germany)
Guy Tillim (South Africa)
Michael Wolf (Germany)

For more information about this year’s Prix Pictet, see the full article in Lens Culture.