Written by Thomas Stellmach

Taryn Simon – USA’s secret places

Taryn Simon – USA’s secret places by Thomas Stellmach

Storage of atomic waste

Storage of atomic waste: 1936 capsules are standing in a water bassin, the radioctive glow is overcoming the thick steel walls

The New York photographer Taryn Simon shows the unknown and furtive of American society. At first glance with an incredible beauty it turns to a prickling scariness when understanding the content. Her first popular piece of art is about the Body Farm: a forensic institution in Tennessee which analyzes the decay of human bodies for the purpose of criminal research. One of her picture shows a dead body lying in scrub, hidden in the darkness. The boy is still wearing sneakers with legs which look burnt. With this series she provoked a lot of protest and the institute is now strongly observed.

She attempts to access the most secret rooms, landscapes, laboratories, dumps or archives in America. Simon succeeded even to enter the Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility in Hanford (Washington) which preserves 1936 steel capsules of atomic waste with 120 million Curie of radioactivity in total. The cold glow of the rays is overpowering even within the steel capsules, which are several meters thick. There is probably no other place in America which is more polluted. As Simon writes, the core of the project is the “total detachment of expert knowledge and official publicity.”

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