Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII Taryn Simon’s photo book, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII, examines the relationships between bloodlines and their stories. The subjects of her research include victims of, “genocide in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with a lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India.” The collections are displayed in a stark, straight forward manner with rows of portraits filling pages followed by supporting text and photographic evidence of events or significant details. Pema Chodron stated, “Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” This is how I relate to this body of work. Being able to see the portraits of humans from around the world, makes the events that they become victims to much more realistic and less removed. Had the images been of actors, or snap shots taken from a car window, the power of the research and the events would have been lost in our inability to find some sort of connection with the people. This collection of work was appealing because of its embodiment of both science and art. The fact that the people photographed in each section share bloodlines and were all affected by a central event makes the work much more jarring. While the works of Robert Frank and Ivan Sigel are beautiful and captivating, they lack the background story and interrelation between images that Taryn Simon’s photographs contain. Her images are easy to follow, with the text description available, as a viewer I am able to appreciate the images much more because I am not forced to create a narrative or connection between the images. Feeling that I need to create a narrative or connection between images because they are in a photo book and have been purposefully placed in a specific order and format can sometimes keep me from simply enjoying the images. In terms of display, I enjoy the format of Taryn Simon’s photo book. I like the rows of portraits, and the placing of supporting material on the pages. This layout creates the feeling of a formal scrapbook, which further enhances the reality of the research and the subjects. The pages look as if they were meticulously formatted, just as one would do with data collected in scientific research. My one criticism is that the photographs do not show the hierarchy of the bloodlines. I understand the fact that all the people are related, but I would have liked for the images to be arranged in a “family tree” manner of some sort. I have always been fascinated by family trees and being able to visually follow the linear relationships between family members. Because of this, I decided to reinterpret Simon’s work and create my own version of bloodlines. While the images I used are all from the same bloodline, I created the hierarchy that I saw as I looked through her book. The construction begins with a married couple and their children which then follows the children through their lineage. In my images, the patriarchal bloodline is followed through the portrait in the top left corner. Each page shows the continuation of the bloodline into the future generations. Simon, Taryn. "Taryn Simon." Taryn Simon. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
Published on Feb 7, 2013