Purple Magazine
— F/W 2011 issue 16

Tayrn Simon

text by Jeff Rian

All Taryn Simon’s artworks courtesy of Gagosian Gallery


Taryn Simon is a committed photographer, ambitiously exploring the most shocking, bizarre, and delirious aspects of late capitalism. Photography is definitely in her blood — her father and grandfather were both avid photographers. She has a refined sense of style, looking like an enigmatic heroine from a romantic film, and with her true New York tenacity, she’s taken pictures in places other photographer haven’t dared to tread.

Taryn combines very high quality large-format photography — one having a style as throttling as that of a David Lynch highlight and as well-lit as a Philip-Lorca diCorcia picture — with writing that has the intensity of a hardcore investigative journalist’s exposé.
She has produced the series The Innocents (2003), which features portraits of people convicted and sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit; An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007), which investigates the imbalanced relationship between institutional power and social privilege, using photographs of nuclear waste capsules, cryonic refrigeration, an American-based Arabic-language newscaster, and a Braille version of Playboy magazine; Contraband (2010), which is comprised of 1,075 photographs of objects seized by customs officials at JFK airport; and A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters (2008-2011), which features a photographic and textual kinship chart illustrating the family bloodlines of selected people, and reveals the effect of arbitrary violence and luck — good and bad — on human stories. Simon’s artistic gestalt ping-pongs between her choice of subjects and the seductive immediacy of her representations of them. The effect is of a piece with the exploratory essays of David Foster Wallace, with a postmodern novelist’s intense journal-style research — such as David Mitchell’s in Cloud Atlas — and even with the HBO television series The Wire (which, for me, was Tolstoy made for TV). She may have even invented a new kind of historical art — à la Gérome — via contemporary photography and diligent research. Each of her real-life stories jumps into the mind like a disaster headline visually riveted to a picture, as an egg is to a chicken.

The transition that just about everyone is going through — due to computer-based information and image gathering; the inequality of social dynamics; transnational economics; biogenetic research; geographic migration; the mass-mixing of media and information; and the ramifications of misinformation, mismanagement, pollution, and paranoia — is succinctly expressed in the photography and writing of Taryn Simon. Taryn’s last show was presented at London’s Tate Modern museum and will be shown at New York’s MOMA in May 2012.



Camille Bidault Waddington MANAGEMENT ARTISTS, style — Ursina Gysi, stylist’s assistant — Alain Pichon @ STREETERS LONDON, hair — Lucy Burt @ PREMIER HAIR AND MAKE-UP, make-up — Tanya Houghton, digital operator — Ragi Dholakia, on-set producer 

[Table of contents]

F/W 2011 issue 16

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple TRAVEL

purple NAKED


purple NIGHT

purple WINTER


Subscribe to our newsletter