Taryn Simon: ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII’

© 2012 Taryn Simon
© 2012 Taryn Simon
Chapter XVII, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII

If Taryn Simon hadn’t become a photographer, she could have made a fortune in sales, because she has persuasive powers that the rest of us can only dream of. For her 2007 exhibition and book An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, she got herself admitted to dozens of places where outsiders with cameras aren’t usually allowed, including a nuclear-waste storage facility and a reconstructed crime scene at a forensic research center, complete with a rotting corpse. For another project, Contraband, she persuaded the wary authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport to let her photograph every item seized by customs over a five-day period, from counterfeit Viagra to cow-dung toothpaste. Despite a personal manner that’s the last word in low-key, she has a way of getting what she wants. “If somebody closes the door,” she says, “I have to find another way to get in.”

Simon, 37, had to find a lot of ways in for her new show, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, which is on view through Sept. 3 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City before moving to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The organizing principle for this project is what she calls bloodlines: all the living descendants, plus any living forebears, of a single man or woman who sets a story in motion. Traveling to 25 countries, Simon tracked down hundreds of family members bound together by not just genealogy but often some curious or painful fate.

Read more about Taryn Simon in this week’s issue of TIME: There Will Be Bloodlines

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LOVED ONE LOST:NAME: Jabril BradleyAGE: 20DOB: 10/6/1990SEX: MaleDATE OF DEATH: 9/1/2011TIME: After MidnightLOCATION: 9th st and Ave of the States, Chester, PACIRCUMSTANCES LEADING UP TO MURDER: Bradley was riding his bike home from a friend’s house on the east side of Chester, September 1, 2011, when an unknown gunman opened fire. He was struck in the back once and continued to ride his bike home. A number of blocks later he collapsed to the ground from blood loss. He bled to death on the street. Bradley’s family claim that he was shot because of mistaken identity. According to his mother, Bradley was supposed to still be in prison. He was serving a sentence for possession of a controlled substance and was allegedly released before his time was up. Within weeks of his murder, the FBI came looking for Bradley at his mothers house, claiming that he got released by mistake. IN PHOTOGRAPH:NAME OF FAMILY MEMBERS: Sister to Jabril Bradley: Danita Harris, 30.Son to Danita Harris: Jah’lil Harris, 3.

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