Not for the faint hearted

Kiyotaka Tsurisaki, ‘Revelations’, n.d.

Leg of Lamb has just discovered the work of ‘Japan’s Only Corpse Photographer’, Kiyotaka Tsurisaki.  The former adult movie director turned his attention to dead bodies in 2004 and has photographed over 1000 of them.   Kiyotaka often travels to areas of political and social unrest (including places like Colombia, Palestine and Mexico) and sometimes trails police cars to find his shots. There’s no denying Kiyotaka’s work is confronting – reminders of the transience of existence and the fragility of the human body are always hard to stomach – but he is by no means alone in this line of investigation.  His work got me thinking about other photographers that deal with mortality, including:

Weegee a.k.a. Arthur Fellig

Weegee, ‘Girl jumped out of car, and was killed, on Park Ave.’, c.1938

The infamous New York press photographer who unflinchingly recorded life and death on the Lower East Side in the 1930s and 40s.

Fernando Brito

Fernando Brito, ‘Untitled’, from the series ‘Lost in the Landscape’, 2011

The Mexican photojournalist who documents the fallout of drug related gang violence in Mexico.

Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon, ‘Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Decomposing Corpse, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee’, 2007

Well, one work in particular really (above), from Simon’s series ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar’, featuring the world’s primary research centre for the study of corpse decomposition in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sally Mann

Sally Mann, from the series ‘What Remains’, 2003

The American photographer who documented the same Knoxville site in her typically romantic style in her 2003 series ‘What Remains’.

And then of course there’s

Joel Peter Witkin

Joel Peter Witkin, ‘Corpus Medius’, 2000

The former U.S. army photographer whose classically styled compositions containing disembodied corpses are often photographed in Mexico, where the American artist has greater freedom to work with the fragments of humanity he finds in the country’s morgues.

Not for the faint hearted

The Cultural Awareness Search Engine

Images of lamb from around the world thanks to the Cultural Awareness Search Engine

Photographer Taryn Simon has teamed up with computer programmer Aaron Swartz to create The Cultural Awareness Search Engine. Developed during this year’s annual Seven on Seven conference in New York (that matches artists with technologists to develop something new like an app or a game over the course of a single day), the duo created a search engine that features an array of web-based images associated with any term you care to enter.  These images are generated by local search engines in different countries and appear simultaneously on one page, thus providing a visual snapshot of the way in which the same concept gets presented in different cultures.  Have a play with it here.

The Cultural Awareness Search Engine

Taryn Simon’s Contraband

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In 2009 Taryn Simon documented over 1,000 examples of seized contraband during a 5-day stint at JFK International Airport.  The resulting body of work, currently on display at Gagosian, Beverly Hills, presents an array of items – unidentified meats, animal parts, cow dung toothpaste – uniformly documented in objective, forensic-style photographs.  Stripped of context by a neutral grey background, these items of trade are effectively re-presented as global artifacts.

Closer to home, photographs from Taryn Simon’s 2007 series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar are about to go on display at the Centre for Contemporary Photography as part of the Melbourne Festival.  Exhibition dates: 15 October – 12 December 2010.

Taryn Simon’s Contraband