Taryn Simon: The Innocents

May 11–August 31, 2003

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents photographs and a documentary by Taryn Simon, whose body of work, entitled The Innocents, documents the stories of individuals across the country who served time for violent crimes they did not commit. These works question photography's use as eyewitness account, acknowledging that unjust convictions often result from a victim's response to photographs and line-ups in law enforcement's identification process.

In the summer of 2000, Simon was assigned by The New York Times Magazine to photograph men who were wrongfully convicted, imprisoned, exonerated, and subsequently freed from death row. This project inspired her to apply for and be awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography to travel across the United States photographing and interviewing individuals who were unfairly convicted. The primary cause of these errors was mistaken identification. In the history of these cases, photography offered the criminal justice system a tool that transformed innocent citizens into criminals, assisted officers in obtaining eyewitness identification, and aided prosecutors in securing convictions.

Simon photographed these men at sites that had particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of misidentification, the scene of arrest, the scene of the crime, or the scene of the alibi. All of these locations have been assigned contradictory meanings for the subjects. The scene of arrest marks the starting point of a reality based in fiction. The scene of the crime is at once arbitrary and crucial: this place, to which they have never been, changed their lives forever. In these photographs Simon confronts photography's ability to blur truth and fiction—an ambiguity that can have severe, even lethal consequences.

Simon's work will be published this spring by Umbrage Editions in a book entitled The Innocents. This book includes photographs and interviews by Simon as well as a foreword and case profiles by leading civil rights attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, who founded the Innocence Project ten years ago and are responsible for most of the postconviction DNA exonerations in the United States today.

Taryn Simon was born in 1975 in New York and is a graduate of Brown University. Simon's photographs have been exhibited internationally and featured in several publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.

  • Taryn Simon

    C&E Motel, Room No. 24, Waco, Texas
    Where an informant claimed to have heard Washington confess
    Wrongfully accused- Served 13 years of a Life sentence for Murder

  • Taryn Simon


  • Taryn Simon

    RONALD JONES (2002)
    Scene of arrest, South Side, Chicago, Illinois
    Served 8 years of a Death sentence, 2002


Taryn Simon: The Innocents is organized by P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach and P.S.1 Exhibition Coordinator Amy Smith-Stewart.