Faces – Caoilainn Ito



Hollywood Cinema Dossier : Cult Cinema & Ed Wood Jr.

Cult Cinema & Ed Wood Jr.

             What is Cult Cinema?

Genre and cinema are one with each other as film genres are generally used as the way in which we can classify a film. Once a film is classified under specific genre it is quite easy to expect certain nuances, I.e. When watching a western you expect guns, hats and landscape shots. These nuances are what allow us to characterize a film as we are able to pick out common place aspects that can be found in films of a similar nature, and genre.

Unlike these easily characterized genres, the “cult” genre cannot be defined based on specific details. Defining cult cinema is not an easy task, but one could start by looking at the name itself. What is “cult” and how does it relate to film?

In the dictionary the word “Cult” is defined as “a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society”. When taking this definition into account one can clearly see that cult cinema is branded “cult” solely based on the devoted following of fans that each of the films acquire. The cult film website Cultographies sets the notion that “Highly committed and rebellious in their appreciation, cult audiences are frequently at odds with cultural conventions – they prefer strange topics and allegorical themes that rub against cultural sensitivities and resist dominant politics.” This notion is true for many cult films as one can see that the themes attracting these audiences are usually completely un-conventional.

“Cult films transgress common notions of good and bad taste, and they challenge genre conventions and coherent storytelling.” (Cultographies.com). The blurred line between what is good and what is bad is one of the aspects that attracts such large audiences to these usually terrible films.

Unlike other genres it is difficult to place one sole definition on cult cinema. Cult films are really only characterized based on their active and live allegiant followings. In order to classify a film as being cult one would have to not only look at the notions of what makes a film cult but would also have to view it in terms of the following of fans it has. Many films today that are considered cult have widespread fan bases that pass through generations. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, Sharman) is an example of one such film as its fan base has passed down through generations, and has transcended beyond time as it has remained as one of the most popular cult films of all time

How can we define a cult film as being “cult”?

Many films are classified in their specific genres by using a checklist of nuances and aspects that the film must contain. One could possibly say that to make a film “Cult” it would have to meet certain checkpoints. The Bright Lights Film Journal created a checklist in which we could use to classify a film as being cult, through looking at the content, sales, and following of each film;

  • Marginality – The content of the film must fall outside the cultural norms of society.

E.g. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, Sharman)

  • Suppression – The film is subject to ridicule, lawsuit and is excluded due to its content.

                              A Clockwork Orange (1971, Kubrick) is an example of this as the film suffered from much rejection based on the violent and disturbing images contained in the film. During release in the 1970’s Kubrick himself attempted to exclude the film from British release as he himself believed that the images in the film were too shocking for certain audiences. After its release in the United Kingdom, the film was linked to many cases involving murder and violent crimes which made the viewing of the film almost impossible until Kubrick’s death in 1999 when the film was re-released to cinemas and on VHS.

  • Economics – Film does not succeed in the box office but eventually becomes profitable after its release on VHS/DVD.

                          E.g.  Fight Club (1999, Fincher) is a perfect example of this as initially it was seen as a major box office flop. It wasn’t until its life on VHS/DVD that it saw a return. With a budget of $63 million, and a mere return in box office sales of $37 million, the film only made a profit later when it saw over $100 million in video sales.

  • Transgression – When the film breaks cultural rules; i.e. moral, legal and religious.                            E.g.  Freaks (1932, Browning) is an example of a film that “breaks rules” as many film critics and audiences believed that the film broke moral standards as it “preyed” on the real-life deformities of the actors playing the “freaks”. Apparently the original cut of the film is so extreme and explicit that today there is no copy of it to be found.

  • Cult Following – The film gains a devoted minority of society as an audience.

E.g. It is clear to see that many films today gain large audiences with the majority of films being parts of larger franchises, I.e. Star Wars, yet films like these are considered as major parts of “Pop Culture” which in itself stops them from being considered “cult”. An example of a film that has gained a large cult following is The Big Lebowski (1998, Coen). This films devoted audience has grown largely over the last decade with a yearly festival being set up in its honor.

  • Community – The films following/audience becomes a self-identifiable group.

                            E.g. The Rocky Horror Picture Show can be seen as a perfect example under many of the headings for the checklist. This film has become a phenomenon as it has generated more and more fans throughout the decades. This group has become so large that the fans have formed somewhat of a community as they have become self-recognizable.

  • Quotation – Dialogue and speech from the film becomes common place and part of everyday language.

                      E.g. Many films today become popular based on that one whole important line, the line that passes down through generations and becomes a part of our everyday language.

 “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”- Forrest Gump (1994, Zemeckis)


  • Iconography – A face or character from the film gets established or revived as a cult icon.

                             E.g. Many film icons today were established through being “cult”. Characters such as Michael Myers (Halloween, Carpenter, 1978) today are seen as famous faces from film as their characters are thrust upon mainstream culture.


One can see that through using this checklist that the characterization process can be made a lot simpler. Using this checklist one could identify which cult films are in a sense more “cult” then others based on the amount of checkpoints that the film meets.

Using this checklist on any film can allow us to decide whether a film is “cult” or not. It can be quite an arduous task to classify a film as there are many films that blur between the lines of genre. Although a film like Star Wars may meet many of the criteria, in that it has a large following of devoted self-recognizable fans, its content and storyline falls outside cultural norms, and that quotation from the film becomes part of everyday language it cannot be characterized as “cult” as Star Wars and its franchise has spread beyond pop culture and is not as marginalized as required.

Once a film has become such a large part of everyday life and culture it can no longer really be seen as a true cult film as the whole point of a film being “cult” is that it is, to a large extent, marginalized.


Ed Wood Jr.

In film, many directors are synonymous with specific genres in which they tend to stick to. Film makers such as John Ford, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino are often attached to specific genres as they continuously make and release films that are often related to each other and their individual genres. I.e. John Ford is seen as being one of the most prominent film makers of all time, particularly in the genre of the Western, with films such as The Searchers (1956), and Stagecoach (1939) he is seen as on the most “western” filmmakers in this specific genre. This is true for many filmmakers as often they are attached to definitive genres. One filmmaker that can be seen as a prominent figure in the “Cult” genre is Ed Wood Jr.

Ed Wood Jr., director, actor, novelist, screen-writer, and producer is seen as one of the most “cult” film makers of all time, with films such as Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), and Glen or Glenda (1953) pushing his work to the foreground of the cult genre.

Critics today often say that Wood made every mistake possible when making his films and is truly seen as one of the worst filmmakers of all time, even winning a “Golden Turkey” with the exact title.

From the beginning many have critiqued him in saying that from birth he was bound to make mistakes in his career. In the biography “Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.” (1994, Grey, R.) On Wood, Grey alluded that part of the reason for Wood’s transvestism was due to the fact that his parents were “hoping for a girl”, thus dressed him in girl’s clothing. “If you’re dressed up in little girls’ clothes at the age of five you really don’t have much choice in what happens afterwards.” (Wood, 1949)

Wood’s first film, The Sun Was Setting (1951) was released with his first directing credit accompanied by a writing credit alongside Ben Brody. This television short gave him his first piece of recognition leading to the large audience of devoted fans he acquired with the release of his first full length feature Glen or Glenda (1953).

Glen or Glenda (1953), other than Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is seen as one of his most recognizable films to note. The film centers around two stories; one of a transvestite (Glen or Glenda) and that of a pseudo hermaphrodite (Alan or Anne). Wood himself was cast in the role of Glen or Glenda, under which he was credited under the pseudonym Daniel Davis. It is said that Wood cast himself in the role as the first story based around Glen or Glenda was in relation to his own cross dressing. This heartfelt introduction of Wood to the big screen truly shows his film “genius” as one could argue that his un-intentional comedy, is comedy gold. Although the film is characterized as a drama in terms of genre one can see that Wood was inspired by a mix of several genres, making this film a true “Cult Classic”.

Although many see Wood’s films as being comical of sorts, it is said that this was not the intention of the filmmaker, as he wanted to be taken seriously by both audiences and other filmmakers. Wood’s use of stock footage truly adds to the comedic aspect of his films as anyone watching them can clearly see that the misplaced and over use of them adds to the cluttered style of his films. Glen or Glenda is a good example of his over use of stock footage as the film contains over fourteen minutes’ worth.

When searching for “Cult” films, Plan 9 from Outer Space is often one of the first films to appear. This is notably Woods most famous film as it is seen as a cult classic and has one of the largest dedicated audiences of any cult film.  “The epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, Plan 9 from Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi ‘thriller’ from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude” (Rotten Tomatoes).Although it flopped during its initial release Plan 9 from Outer Space later gained its cult following in the 1980’s when Michael Medved declared it “the worst film ever made” in his book The Golden Turkey Awards (Medved, M., 1980)

If one were to take Woods’ Plan 9 and compare it against other cult films using the checklist created by Bright Lights Film Journal, it would clearly show that compared to other cult films of its time, Plan 9 from Outer Space is one of the biggest “cult” films of all time.

Although Wood’s films from the 50’s gained large audiences many of his films from the 60’s and 70’s were seen as exploitative and did not gain “cult” recognition. Later in his career he released many exploitative and pornographic films, E.g. Take it out and Trade (1970) & Orgy of the Dead (1965) that did not gain him the “Orson Welles status” he had always wished for.

When looking at Wood’s long career one can see that his terrible filmmaking makes him one of the best cult filmmakers of all time, as he gained the one thing that truly matters in the cult genre; devoted followers. Even after such terrible exploitation films, such as Orgy of the Dead, Woods’ fan base continued to grow as his filmmaking was appreciated for its “so bad-its good” quality.

Since Woods’ death in 1978 his legacy has lived on as many people still play homage to him to this day with a festival even being put in place in 1997, The Ed Wood Film Festival. In 1994 with the release of the Tim Burton film Ed Wood, Woods films were brought back to the forefront of cult cinema as people were once again reminded of the ridiculous yet genius films of the filmmaker.

Through looking at Woods’ career one can say truly that he is and always will be synonymous with the cult genre as nothing makes a cult film anymore “cult” than a terrible one.

“One is always considered mad when one perfects something that others cannot grasp” – Ed Wood



Medved, M. Et al, (1980), The Golden Turkey Awards, United States, Berkley

Grey, R. (1994), Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.), United States, Feral House.


Barker, M. Et al, (N.D), Cultographies’ Definition of Cult Cinema, Cultographies, Retrieved on 17/4/2016 from http://www.cultographies.com/definition.shtml

Baker, B, D., (July 31 2010), What is Cult Cinema? A Checklist, Bright Lights Film Journal, Retrieved 17/4/2016 from http://brightlightsfilm.com/what-is-cult-cinema-a-checklist/#.VxUV7PkrLIU



White, M. (Producer) & Sharman, J. (Director), (1975), The Rocky Horror Picture Show [Motion picture], UK & USA, Michael White Productions

Kubrick, S., (Producer & Director), (1971), A Clockwork Orange [Motion picture], UK & USA, Polaris Productions & Hawk Films

Linson, A. Et Al (Producers) & Fincher, D. (Director), (1999), Fight Club [Motion picture], USA & Germany, Fox 2000 Pictures, Regency Enterprises & Linson Films

Browning, T. (Producer & Director), (1932), Freaks [Motion picture], USA, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

Coen, E. (Producer) & Coen, J. (Director), (1998), The Big Lebowski [Motion Picture], USA, Working Title Film & PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Finnerman, W. (Producer) & Zemeckis, R. (Director), (1994), Forrest Gump [Motion picture], USA, Paramount Pictures

Hill, D. (Producer) & Carpenter, J. (Director), (1978), Halloween [Motion picture], USA, Falcon International Productions

Whitney, V, C. (Producer) & Ford, J. (Director), (1956), The Searchers [Motion picture], USA, C. V Whitney Pictures

Wanger, W. (Producer) & Ford, J. (Director), (1939), Stagecoach [Motion picture], USA, Walter Wanger Productions

Wood, E. (Producer & Director), (1959), Plan 9 from Outer Space [Motion picture], USA, Reynolds Pictures Inc.

Weiss, G. (Producer) & Wood, E. (Director), (1953), Glen or Glenda [Motion picture], USA, Screen Classics

Bowren, M, Et al (Producers) & Wood, E. (Director), (1951), The Sun was Setting [TV Short], USA, Empire Productions

Ashdown, E. Et al (Producers) & Wood, E. (Director), (1970), Take it out and Trade [Motion picture], USA, Ashdown-Gonzalez Productions

Stephen, A, C. (Producer & Director), (1965), Orgy of the Dead [Motion Picture], USA, Crown International Pictures

Burton, T. (Producer & Director), (1994), Ed Wood [Motion Picture], USA, Touchstone Pictures &
Burton/Di Novi Productions





Ipy Girl- Tad Wakamatsu (Jörg Colberg)


Ipy Girl by Tad Wakamatsu is a photo book from the late 1960’s depicting Wakamatsu’s journey across America as almost a memoir of sorts.

Containing images of nudes, bikers and hippies this book gives us an insight into Wakamatsu’s journey as he traveled. Noise and energy is ever so present in these images as Wakamatsu displays the enjoyment in his subjects perfectly.tumblr_lqgm42MGPF1qc4eyio1_1280.jpg

What I enjoyed about this book was the sense of Wakamatsu viewing one woman as almost a muse as she (Haruku Wanabuchi) features in almost every image, either hiding amongst a crowd, posing nude or dancing around giving the images a noise which adds to the cacophony of the book.

One section of the book that stood out to me the most was the beautiful detailed section in which a series of nudes were printed on almost translucent paper, turing simple nudes of a woman into a dance of sorts as each image blended into the next. This section not only displays Wakamatsu’s stunning photographical techniques but the extent of craftman-ship that goes into the making of these books.



The Genius of Photography – “We are family “

Nan Goldin –  “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” was a body of work by Nan Goldin which featured photographs of her life as she grew up, partied and did drugs with the people in her life in which she described as her “tribe”. One can view Goldin’s photography as almost a confessional as she photographs personal and sometimes harsh points of her life and the lives of those around her.

This body of work was originally presented as a slideshow containing 900 carefully picked images. Goldin then set the slideshow to music that she chose in accordance with the message and lyrics that she wanted the soundtrack along side her images to convey.


Diane Arbus – When viewing Arbus’ photography one can see her fascination with individuality ever so clearly. One could almost say that she used her photography as a way to exploit, steal, and represent people lives in which she referred to as “freaks”.  She was in awe of the unique and used her expressive photography as a way to expose true individuality.

My favourite image by Diane Arbus is photograph of the “Man being a Woman” shot in 1960. This image stood out to me because not only did Arbus shoot a full scale image of the man/woman, as opposed to her usual close-up photographs of faces but she also exposed a part of her/him that displayed a true sense of individuality. Compared to many of the other images by Arbus where she shows us “freaks” that are physically individual, and different from the norm in this image we are exposed to someone who spiritually, and emotionally is seen as different.

Man being a Woman, 1960 

Duane Michaels – When speaking about family photographs and portraits Michaels believes that although these images may reveal how things appear on the outside that they do not truly reveal the in depth things that matter within the family. He said that a photo of a group of relatives may appear to reveal things that are hidden but that they can’t truly reveal the relationships and feelings that are going on behind the frames of the photograph.

I Remember Pittsbuurgh, 1982

Phillip Lorca di Corcia – Hustlers was a body of work by di Corcia in which he depicted male prostitutes. One part of this body of works that interested many is the way in which di Corcia paid his models. Di Corcia paid his models using the funding that he had received to photograph his next subject. Many people over the years have criticized him for this as people saw the fact that he was using the tax payers money to pay prostitutes as negligent and dis-respectful of the generous funding he had received. 1536LS_diCorcia_Chris.jpg

Larry Clarke – Larry Clarke’s book “Tulsa” was a book that inspired many photographers such as Nan Goldin. It was a collection of black and white photographs by Clarke that cataloged the lives of young people in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This body of works caused a widespread need for autobiographical photography as it opened up a whole new genre that some people called the “impolite genre”. This book was extremely important as it opened the door for other photographers wanting to take photo’s of their own lives as it gave permission to photograph “your own”.

“At the end of the day, what I show is real life. I tell the truth. And the truth can be shocking.” – Larry Clarke

untitled 1970 c  larry clark courtesy luhring augustine new york.jpg

Richard Billingham – Richard Billingham’s project “Ray’s Laugh” started as he began to take photographs to allow him to paint things he really saw. People often see Billingham’s work as exploitative but one can clearly see that although the images may exploit and expose the things that his subjects may want hidden that at the end of the day he introduces them to beautiful and artistic photography.

Good Mother and Father – Sacha Maric (Jörg Colberg)


Good Mother and Father is a self-published photo book released in 2012 by Sacha Maric containing images of a personal nature that reveal Maric’s stances on parenthood, relationships, death and sex.

What stood out to me the most about this book was not just the images set out amongst the pages but was the way in which they were set. Unlike most photo book’s that have their images simply on the right hand side with a blank opposing page Maric’s book  had images places almost floating around the pages. With each turn of the page the image moved and wasn’t where you would normally expect it to be, which intrigued me as it almost added an aspect of mystery to the book as you could never expect what the next image would be or where it would be.

Although some may see the images in the book as harsh, I quite enjoyed the brutal honesty that Maric exposed in the images. What I liked most about this book was the difference between subject matters from one page to the next, on one hand you would be presented with images of children but on the other you would be presented with images of a sexual nature which adds almost a shock effect to the book.

She Dances on Jackson – Vanessa Winship (Jörg Colberg)


She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship is a simplistic, almost conservative photo book that transpired from a series of road trips across America. Like many photographers before her Winship used America as a platform to travel and take photographs of her journey. One could almost compare her photography with that of Walker Evans with her book American Photographs as it displays America in its true forms today.

With each photo placed on the right hand page of the book with an opposing blank page it is quite clear to see that the book itself has a design that caters to the images, allowing them to be presented in a simplistic and conservative manner.

I was taken in by these photographs and the photo book itself as the silence and lack of noise allowed me to see the serenity of each image. The photographs that Winship chose to place together in this photo book blend together perfectly as no image seems louder than the next.

Garry Winogrand


Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) was an American photographer best known for his portrayal of American life and its issues through street photography.

Winogrand  photographed the everyday life and cacophony of the streets of America, the people in them and the way they behaved. His work is seen as today as incredibly influential as he captured candid moments that otherwise would have gone un-noticed.

Winogrand is seen as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, and his work is commented on as being the raw insight of America between the 50’s and 80’s.

No one moment is important. Any moment can be something. – Garry Winogrand


Robert Frank – The American’s

Large_H1000xW950Robert Frank is an American photographer and filmmaker, commonly known for his revealing photographic book The Americans.

In 1955, Frank secured the Guggenheim grant to fund his various road trips across America in order to reveal the American life, dream and nature. Frank traveled across America, snapshotting images that through the ordinary eye would be seen as mundane, whilst revealing a lot of things under the surface. He photographed everyday life, going through an estimated seven hundred roles of film. These seven hundred roles were eventually condensed down into eighty-three images and published by Robert Delpire in 1958.


Many photographers today see Frank’s work as the photographic equivalent to the Great American Novel, with Jack Kerouac quoted in saying that “with one hand he [Frank] sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film”.

Many people today say that Frank’s The American’s changed the face of photography through those eighty-three simple black and white images. Although the book was not well received when first published, today the book is seen as the most influential photo book of the 20th century.

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” ― Robert Frank


(All photographs belong to Robert Frank)

Taryn Simon

American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Taryn Simon


Taryn Simon is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in photography, text, sculpture and performance. Born in 1975 in New York City Simon followed in the footsteps of her father and grandmother who both worked with image and text as she began to explore artistically through many different art forms. Before fully discovering her talents in the arts Simon studied  environmental sciences at Browne University before changing her major to art semiotics whilst continuously taking photograph classes with the Rhode Island School of Design. Simon is a 1999 Guggenheim fellow and has many current pieces in many museums and art galleries worldwide whilst remaining to live and work in New York City.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII


A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII is a body of work in which Simon researched bloodlines and there related stories over a four year period(2008-2011). In all of the eighteen chapters that the body of works comprise of, the external forces of territory, power, circumstance or religion collide with the internal forces of psychological and physical inheritance come into play. Taryn photographed many different subjects in order to get her point across taking her just under four years. Simon documents many different people living different circumstances in order to display the connections between blood, fate and chance including the living dead in India, those victimised by genocide in Bosnia, and the dead body of Suddam Hussein’s son Uday.

Each chapter in A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII comprises three different elements. Each chapter comprises one or more panels of portraits of a number of people related by blood. The portraits are systematically ordered as to include the living and dead blood descendants of one single individual. Taryn then followed each panel with text of narratives and footnotes of pieces of photographic evidence to prove each narrative.

Simon used many empty portrait in order to represent the individuals who could not be photographed. These empty frames represented the individuals who could not be photographed due to many circumstances alluding to religion, family, and chance. Some of these ‘circumstances’ include military service, illness, imprisonment and women who could not be given permission due to religious reasons.

One can see that the way in which Simon simplistically photographs each individual that their own circumstances were completely related to their blood ties, religion, and social reasons. In particular one can see how the social and religious aspects of each bloodline effect the amount of empty panels in each chapter as many individuals were unable to be photographed. This varying number of empty panels for each chapter displays how circumstances such as religion and chance and completely connected to blood.


An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar


An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar is a body of works comprising of images and narratives of situations, places and things that the average person would not see of hear of. Simon reveals objects and places pertaining to the daily function of America, its mythology, and its foundations whilst remaining almost unknown and unavailable to the public. For example the above image reveals the process of a hymenoplasty surgery being undertaken by a young Palestinian woman attempting to adhere to cultural and religious expectations due to the need for ‘virginity’ in order to be seen as desirable for marriage. Simon uses images such as this to display the subjects and spaces of areas that many Americans don’t know exist on their own doorstep.

Simon uses images that display such things unknown to show the divide between access and the public in a country seen as “free”. Such images of things such as cryopreservation units,  and nuclear waste encapsulation storage facilities for example display how the everyday American is sheltered from many hidden and unknown areas that make America not so free.

One can see clearly from the images and the narratives that are aligned with them that the most interesting part of the body is the amount of subjects, places and areas that Simon was unable to gain access to. To note, Simon was denied access to specific areas owned by Disney Publishing Worldwide as the company believed that the project took away their ability to protect the magic surrounding characters, parks and other places and subjects seen by the company as valuable.

Simon’s publication not only comprised of seventy colour plates and photographs but included narratives and commentary’s by the likes of Salman Rushdie and Ronald Dworkin. The body was then published by Steidl publishing house and exhibited in the Whitney Museum of Modern Art.

“In a historical period in which many people are making such great efforts to conceal the truth from the mass of the people, an artist like Taryn Simon is an invaluable counter-force. Democracy needs visibility, accountability, light… Somehow, Simon has persuaded a good few denizens of hidden worlds not to scurry for shelter when the light is switched on, as cockroaches and vampires do, but to pose proudly for her invading lens…” — Salman Rushdie


The Innocents


The Innocents is a body of works published by Simon in 2007 and is seen as one of her most incite full bodies. The Innocents features a series of photographs and images of individuals who have been wrongly convicted of crimes leading to life and death sentences after being eventually vindicated due to DNA evidence.

Simon, through this body of work, used each image to not only display the faults in the justice system of America but in the use of images as evidence. Since the use of photographic’s as evidence began many innocent men and women have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. Simon used these images as a response to the fact that the biggest reason for wrongful conviction is mistaken identity often due to the use of photographs.

In order to display each individual as equals Simon photographed each at wither the site of alibi, the site of the crime, the site of arrest or the site of mistaken identity. Most interestingly, when photographed at the scene of the crime many of the individuals had never even visited the site. On the subject of photographies ability to blur fact and fiction into one Simon has been quoted in saying “Photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction is one if its most compelling qualities… Photographs in the criminal justice system, and elsewhere, can turn fiction into fact. As I got to know the men and women in this book, I saw that photography’s ambiguity, beautiful in one context, can be devastating in another.” (Simon, T. The Innocents:Photographers Forward, 2003)

One can see that Simon’s use of photography as a statement is ever so clear in this body of works as not only does she display how photography can blur the lines between right and wrong, but can also be used to vindicate those who have been wronged.

After  being published by Umbridge editions in 2003, the project was displayed at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre. This body continues to receive praise for Simon today as it responds to the faults within Americas justice system and its every so evident need for change.


One can see that Simon’s approach to photography is not only artistic in its intricacy as each image represents a specific narrative and story whilst remaining beautiful, but is informative as she uses her photographs to respond to certain fundamental problems she see’s within the framework of America. Simon’s photography is both incite-full and astounding as she continues to display the difference between fact and between fiction, the hidden and unknown, and the connection between blood and circumstance.




Simon, T. The Innocents: Photographers Forward (2003) Frontline, PBS [Online]
Available t: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/burden/innocents
(Accessed December 22nd)

Simon,T. Taryn Simon Website [Online]
Available at http://tarynsimon.com/
(Accessed December 22nd)

Rushdie, S (2003) The Innocents, New York, Unbradge Editions

All Images belong to Taryn Simon