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
The infamous New York press photographer who unflinchingly recorded life and death on the Lower East Side in the 1930s and 40s.
The Mexican photojournalist who documents the fallout of drug related gang violence in Mexico.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.