The Other Side Pt. 1: Taryn Simon

A couple dark thoughts have always haunted me.  (1) When I go, how will the living dispose of me?  Burial does not seem fun, nor does a fiery furnace. I kind of like the Native American idea of hanging the dead in trees (like in the movie version of Last of the Mohicans, a veritable treasure trove of accurate American history, I know), but then I wonder if anything would dribble down on some innocent passers beneath.  Regardless, I would like a bit of my DNA set aside, you know, just in case someone needs to clone me or tie me to some unknown illegitimate relatives in 2108. (2) Speaking of relatives (legitimate and otherwise), what happens if you grow up far, far away from from your first cousins and then accidentally meet, years later, and realize how terribly attractive your nose is on the face of a "total stranger"? Even worse, there's the old Dr. Cecil Jacobson (the rogue fertility doctor accused of impregnating about 75 of his patients with his own sperm) case from the early '90s.  Inside Edition jumped on the story and used b-roll of my grade school to illustrate it (hopefully a coincidence). Regardless, it always put a certain spin on what could've gone down on prom night. 

Where I occasionally ponder these things, photographer Taryn Simon likes to illustrate the sad/fascinating real-world examples... 
In her case, she found her example of in-breeding in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (top). All white tigers in the U.S. have been in-bred (selectively), but things went a little too far in with poor Kenny.  He's mentally retarded, has trouble breathing because his little nose is so smashed in, can't chew right and has trouble walking.  For the folks who want more than a little bit of their DNA preserved, she visited the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan (not pictured) where you can put yourself on ice for $28,000 in advance or $35,000 at death's door.
She's up for the London Photographers' Gallery's Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her project: The American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar.  The show also includes photo evidence of the Research Marijuana Grow Room at the National Center for Natural Products Research in Oxford, Mississippi (middle) and the Avian Quarantine Facility (directly above) in Newburgh, New York where non-US or Canadian birds must undergo a 30-day quarantine at the owner's expense.  

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize Show, Feb. 20-April 12, London Photographers' Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street

P.S. David Coggins chatted with Taryn for Interview.


  1. Memphis88 says:

    Yours has quickly become one of my favorite blogs.

  2. taryn simon is amazing and a true genius. i really enjoy reading your weblog. this was so compelling.

  3. Morgan says:

    I'm partial to a Viking funeral. I hope someone I love kidnaps my body in hopes of fulfilling my last wish, a la Gram Parsons.

  4. this just blew me away.

  5. You might like to read Stiff by Mary Roach. It's a fast, intriguing read about the "lives" of human cadavers.

    She talks about all the options so to speak and gives the most vivid descriptions of her discoveries.

    P.S. we are addicted to your blog :)

  6. I know Taryn Simon's work from a series of photos she did several years ago in connection with the Innocence Project, which I was working with at the time. Amazing portraits of guys who were wrongfully imprisoned and exonerated by DNA evidence. Definitely definitely worth a look: