Practitioner – Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon balances image, text and graphic design. In ‘An Occupation of Loss’ (Simon, 2014) she uses sound in her installation. These are all choices to be explored for my FMP.

I like how she showed absence in her work on a bloodline following a South Korean fisherman kidnapped by North Korea. This work was censored and banned in China so the way she represented it in an exhibition in Beijing was with the works blacked out.

© Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon describes her work as

‘I view my medium as photography, text, graphic design, sculptural elements, research. Primarily research. And so all of these components intersecting and photography is the most visible, so always articulated the most. But writing is actually probably the biggest component of my work.’ (Simon, 2015)

I have choices to make between adding text and letting the images tell their own story. I like writing and telling stories but in photography I am more interested in putting something out there for audiences to project on to. Taryn notes above that she is well known for her photographs but writing is the biggest component of her work.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII illustrates her approach.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII

This work was produced over a four-year period (2008–2011), during which Simon traveled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the eighteen ‘chapters’ that make up the work, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance, or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects documented by Simon include feuding families in Brazil, victims of genocide in Bosnia, the body double of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, and the living dead in India. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping the relationships among chance, blood, and other components of fate. Each work in A Living Man Declared Dead comprises three segments. On the left of each chapter are one or more large portrait panels systematically ordering a number of individuals directly related by blood. The sequence of portraits is structured to include the living ascendants and descendants of a single individual. The portraits are followed by a central text panel in which the artist constructs narratives and collects details. On the right are Simon’s ‘footnote images’ representing fragmented pieces of the established narratives and providing photographic evidence. The empty portraits represent living members of a bloodline who could not be photographed. The reasons for these absences are included in the text panels and include imprisonment, military service, dengue fever and women not granted permission to be photographed for religious and social reasons. Simon’s presentation explores the struggle to determine codes and patterns embedded in the narratives she documents, making them recognizable as variations (versions, renderings, adaptations) of archetypal episodes from the present, past, and future. In contrast to the methodical ordering of a bloodline, the central elements of the stories – violence, resilience, corruption, and survival – disorient the highly structured appearance of the work. A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII highlights the space between text and image, absence and presence, and order and disorder.

Chapter XI

© Taryn Simon

Hans Frank was Adolf Hitler’s personal legal advisor and governor-general of occupied Poland. He was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and was executed on October 16, 1946.

During Hitler’s rise to power, Frank represented the interests of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in over 2,000 cases. He was appointed minister of justice for Bavaria, chairman of the National Socialist Jurists Association, and president of the Academy of German Law, which he founded. Frank crafted and enacted laws and legal doctrines serving the Third Reich’s ideological and territorial ambitions, including mobilization for war. At the end of 1934 Hitler appointed him Reich minister without portfolio.

Under Frank’s rule as governor-general of occupied Poland and Heinrich Himmler’s command of the SS, the Generalgouvernement conscripted Polish nationals into forced labor in Germany; closed Poland’s schools and colleges; arrested Polish academics and intellectuals; increased food contributions to Germany while the Polish population was starved; implemented forcible resettlement projects, including the development of Jewish quarters; required Jews and other minorities to wear identifying symbols; and initiated a program to exterminate Jews.

Frank was captured by American troops in southern Bavaria on May 4, 1945. Upon his arrest, Frank attempted suicide. During his imprisonment and trial, he renewed his Catholic faith. In his testimony at Nuremberg, Frank claimed he submitted fourteen resignation requests to Hitler, but all were rejected.

© Taryn Simon

Excerpt from Chapter XI

c. Official Adolf Hitler postage stamp and Hans Frank imitation stamp. The Hitler stamp was printed in 1941 for the second anniversary of the founding of the Generalgouvernement and was in circulation until the end of the Second World War. A replica of the Hitler stamp, with Frank’s image, was produced by British intelligence and released in Poland to provoke friction between Frank and Hitler. Henry Gitner Philatelists, Inc., New York.

e. Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, taken by German troops from the Czartoryski collection during the Second World War. It hung in the Wawel apartment of Hans Frank and was later brought to his family home, Schoberhof. After Frank’s arrest, the painting was returned to the Czartoryski Museum, where it now hangs across from the empty frame for Raphael’s missing Portrait of a Youth. Czartoryski Museum, Krakow.

f. Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan, taken by German troops from the Czartoryski collection during the Second World War. One of only eight oil landscapes painted by the artist, it was returned to the Czartoryski Museum upon Frank’s arrest. Czartoryski Museum, Krakow.

7. Frank, Norman, 06 Mar. 1928. Bavarian television facilities director (retired). Schliersee, Germany.
8. MJK, 24 May 1958. (Information withheld). [Sent clothing as representation]
14. Sommerfeld, Maximilian, 31 Mar. 2002. Student. Gross-Umstadt, Germany. [Parent declined participation/child not old enough to decide for himself]
15. (Information withheld).
16. (Information withheld). [Parent declined participation]
17. (Information withheld). [Parent declined participation]

Chapter VI

© Taryn Simon

Twenty-four European rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 for hunting purposes on an estate in Victoria. Within one hundred years the rabbit population exploded to half a billion. As a consequence of early sexual maturity, short gestation, and large litters, a single female rabbit can produce between thirty and forty young per year.

Since the 1950s Australia has introduced lethal diseases into the wild rabbit population to control growth. This includes the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), which was introduced in 1995. Rabbits in certain regions have shown moderate resistance to the original strain of RHDV, but not to field strains that subsequently emerged.

In a controlled test, the Robert Wicks Pest Animal Research Centre (RWPARC), a division of Biosecurity Queensland, bred three bloodlines of test rabbits (A, B, C) from wild rabbits (A.1, B.1, C.1) trapped at Turretfield near Adelaide, a region that has shown resistance to RHDV. Scientists at the RWPARC infected the test rabbits with samples of RHDV field strains collected in 2006, 2007, and 2009. These newer field strains killed most of the rabbits in the course of the trial, revealing that these strains maintained greater virulence than the strain of RHDV introduced in 1995. Rabbits not infected were euthanized.

European rabbits have no natural predators in Australia. They compete with native wildlife, degrade land, and damage native plants and vegetation. Earlier population control methods involved shooting, trapping, destruction of warrens, fumigation, and the construction of 3,256 kilometers of fencing. Severe environmental and agricultural damage attributed to rabbits incurs annual costs in Australia of between 600 million and 1 billion AUD.’

An Occupation of Loss, 2016

In An Occupation of Loss, professional mourners simultaneously broadcast their lamentations, enacting rituals of grief. Their sonic mourning is performed in recitations that include northern Albanian laments, which seek to excavate “uncried words”; Wayuu laments, which safeguard the soul’s passage to the Milky Way; Greek Epirotic laments, which bind the story of a life with its afterlife; and Yezidi laments, which map a topography of displacement and exile. Simon’s installation considers the anatomy of grief and the intricate systems we use to manage contingencies of fate and the uncertain universe.

(Simon, 2014).


The blacking out of the South Korean bloodline for the Beijing exhibition and the empty images for people who could not or declined to be included in a bloodline are examples of how powerful absence can be. The presence of the absences raises questions which are then answered by the accompanying text.

Repetition of set up for each photograph taken and presenting in a matrix gives a haunting effect.

The use of sound from professional mourners in ‘An Occupation of Loss’ is eerie but adds something intangible to the images.


Simon, Taryn. 2015. ‘Storylines.’ Guggenheim [online] available at [Accessed: July 8th, 2020]

Simon, Taryn. 2014. ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII’. Taryn Simon [online] available at [Accessed: July 8th, 2020].


Simon, Taryn. 2014. ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII’. Simon, Taryn. 2014. ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII’. [Accessed: July 8th, 2020].

Categories: Contextual Research FMP, Final Major Project


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.