Taryn Simon speaking, Oxford, England
This month, from what must be the best lecture series on the planet—the TED Talks—comes "Taryn Simon photographs secret sites." You might already know that Taryn's book An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar is one of the better-selling and certainly more significant books of photography of the past two years (U.K. link), at least among fine-art (as opposed to pop and how-to) titles.
I have to say I sometimes have a hard time recommending long videos—this one runs seventeen and a half minutes—because I know you're busy. I often don't have the patience myself to sit through longer videos unless I have some assurance that they're worthwhile. (Video is just not my preferred way of ingesting information generally.) However, this one's worth the time and then some, I think. I started watching it thinking I'd give it two or three minutes. By the time it was over it seemed short...even too short.
In the talk, she shows and speaks about images from her American Index, as well as some from her book The Innocents—here's the U.K. link—which is an extended investigation into how photographs can be used in subliminally suggestive ways to influence and in some cases replace memory, even in matters that are literally "life or death."
Especially if you're unlikely to ever see the books, watch the talk—you'll get the gist of what Taryn Simon's about, and some of the ways in which she uses photography in the service of her ideas, and why "ninety percent of her photographic process is not photographic." Fascinating stuff. Recommended, all seventeen and a half minutes' worth.
(Thanks to Ed Buziak)
Featured Comment by Craig Arnold: "I saw her exhibition at the Photographer's Gallery in London a while ago. The prints are quite large and although not particularly aesthetically pleasing they certainly work very well in an exhibition. The impact is immediate and strong. The images themselves are very unsettling to see, and once one starts reading the text it all becomes extremely fascinating and suddenly an hour has passed and the gallery is closing. Not all photography is 'art' and not all art is meant to be beautiful. I certainly wouldn't buy a print to hang on my wall, but I would definitely go to an exhibition again, and may get the book."