Saturday, February 2, 2008

Think You've Seen It All?


Based on last year's exhibition at The Whitney Museum , An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar is a mesmerizing collection of annotated images by documentary photographer Taryn Simon. Her wildly diverse subjects share no common thread, save that all were photographed in the United States. Some things are not all that unfamiliar; depending on where you're from in the U.S., you'll know a little or a lot about the existence of many, even most, of the things depicted. But, you'll not necessarily have seen them photographed, and certainly you'll not have seen them photographed by an artist using a large-format camera and only the available light. I've seen and handled a Braille edition of Playboy, for example, so an image of that didn't do much for me, but I found the photo of transatlantic submarine telecommunications cables reaching land unaccountably fascinating, and the image taken at Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Research Facility haunting. And, honestly now, what did you think a cryogenic preservation chamber looked like? I certainly didn't imagine this.
It speaks to her remarkable powers of persuasion that Simon was granted such intimate access by multiple branches of government, law enforcement agencies, extremist political and religious enclaves, and private individuals. But of course, not everyone said yes. One notable holdout is represented by a blank page, and an excerpt from their declination of permission. (I shouldn't spoil the surprise. But I never was good at witholding information.) So, spoiler alert, don't click here if you don't want to know: Who's afraid of the big bad camera?

For more about Taryn Simon's work, visit her page on Artsy

If you'd like to check the book out, plug in your zip code here to see what libraries near you own it. (Thumbnail image from http://www.gagosian.com/artists/taryn-simon)

3 comments:

Sherry said...

And how did this book find a way to your desk? Were you moonlighting in a department other than fiction? Tell the truth....

Sharon said...

Amazingly, I am granted the run of the place! This allows me to browse shelves all over the building. Some of my favorite stuff is nonfiction, as you'll see if I keep doing these inadvertent reviews....

Sherry said...

Geez, they let you into travel and philosophy without so much as a howdy-do and they make me show my passport at the Canadian border. How fair is that?