The night, the sex, the wandering… and the need to photograph it all, not so much the perceived act but more like a simple exposure to common and even extreme experiences… It is an inseparable part of photographic practice, in a certain sense, to grasp at existence or risk, desire, the unconsciousness and chance, all of which continue to be essential elements. No moral posturing, no judgement, simply the principle of affirmation, necessary to explore certain universes, to go deep inside, without any care. A ride into photography to the vanishing point of orgasm and death.
I try to establish a state of nomadic worlds, partial and personal, systematic and instinctual, of physical spaces and emotions where I am fully an actor. I avoid defining beforehand, what I am about to photograph. The shots are taken randomly, according to chance meetings and circumstances. The choices made, considering all the possibilities, are subconscious. But the obsessions remain constant: the streets, fear, obscurity, and the sexual act…. Not to mention perhaps, in the end, the simple desire to exist.
Beyond the subject, the lost souls and the nocturnal drifting, the scenes of fellatio and of bodies in utter abandon, I seek to reveal some kind of break up through the mixture of bodies and feelings, to reveal fragments of society that escape from any analysis and instant visualization of the event, but nonetheless, are its principal elements.
White Tiger (Kenny)
Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to his deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, cross-eyed, and knock-kneed.
Chromogenic print, 37-1/4 x 44-1/2 inches framed (94.6 x 113 cm), Edition of 7
[Taryn Simon provides expansive descriptions as part of many of her works. – eds.]
“I try to avoid the pitfalls of reality while maintaining a link with it. Photos are not inventions but encounters. I’m not looking for any aesthetic. That everything is haunted will not be completely intentional. But for me, photography is inseparable from the loss. Hence the need to cling to the impossible. Pictures are the only evidence of what has been experienced. But no facts at all. Whether something took place, whether one has had an experience does not mean one has actually known what it is and what it means for himself. This is often the limit of Photography – it does not penetrate. I want to express how I felt. This is the link with reality and experiences. While this is not the case because I guess I’ve not gone far enough in what I have experienced. As for cowardice. Some photos come out of nowhere, I don’t remember having taken them, they are linked to the reality of what I felt. ”
Affection for the land runs deep in us, and its manifestations—from the garden plot to the national parks—encompass a vast range of human actions and choices. At what point in the history of our species, I wonder, did the watchful, anxious regard for our surroundings, on which survival depended, begin to modulate toward love of a particular place? There must be an Other before there can be love; Eden becomes the object of our desire only after we are cast out. The best landscape images, whatever their medium and whatever other emotions they may evoke, are predicated on that loss. They propose the possibility of an intimate connection with a world to which we have access only through our eyes, a promise containing its own denial. In the case of landscape photographs, the paradox is sharpened because the world represented must have existed for the picture to be made, and yet the existence of the photograph attests undeniably to that world’s disappearance.
Culture creates a gulf between people and the world they inhabit. Some human groups experience this rupture as a problem and expend enormous amounts of energy in their attempts to heal it. Americans have been noticeably divided on the necessity, even the desirability, of a harmonious relationship with the natural world; but when we do attempt to establish a connection with larger realities, photographs of unspoiled Nature frequently play a central, almost devotional role. It is an odd choice of tools: the making of a photograph presupposes distance, which accounts, I think, for the elegiac tone, the note of longing that suffuses so many of the finest landscape photographs. I admire those pictures most that acknowledge our predicament without causing us to lose heart, just as I am most touched by those places where damage and grace are inextricably entangled. Photographs bear witness to the facts, be they visible or existential, and it is a fact that our relationship with the natural world is a troubled one that can never be otherwise under the present cultural dispensation.
Approached attentively, any place may persuade us to linger in an attempt to locate the source of its attraction. What we discover often comes to us in the form of a story. Landscapes are collections of stories, only fragments of which are visible at any one time. In linking the fragments, unearthing the connections among them, we create the landscape anew. A landscape whose story is known is harder to dismiss, harder to treat like a neutral matrix of interchangeable parts. For all the obvious, vast differences between ourselves and the aboriginal walker, singing the world into existence at every moment, there is still some sense of kinship. At its best, telling the landscape’s story can still feel like a sacred task.
If the goal of art is Beauty and if we assume that the goal is sometimes reached, even if always imperfectly, how do we judge art? Basically, I think, by whether it reveals to us important Form that we ourselves have experienced but to which we have not paid adequate attention. Successful art rediscovers Beauty for us.
One standard, then, for the evaluation of art is the degree to which it gives us a fresh intimation of Form. For a picture to be beautiful it does not have to be shocking, but it must in some significant respect be unlike what has preceded it (this is why an artist cannot afford to be ignorant of the tradition within his medium). If the dead end of the romantic vision is incoherence, the failure of classicism, which is the outlook I am defending, is the cliché, the ten thousandth camera-club imitation of a picture by Ansel Adams.
The beauty of a work of art can also be judged by its scope. The greatest beauty tends to encompass most; the artworks of largest importance frequently have within them the widest diversity. A.R. Ammons phrased this well in the poem Sphere, in which he observed that “the shapes nearest shapelessness awe us most, suggest the god.” This is so, I think, Because most of life seems shapeless most of the time, and the art that squares with this powerful impression seems most convincingly to confront disagreeable fact.
Beauty in Photograph, pg. 27