Taryn Simon, “A Living Man Declared Dead” (Mutual Art)

Imagine discovering that official records list you as dead. The land that is rightfully yours was transitioned to other heirs, and no matter how hard you try, even as you live and breathe, you cannot convince the local government to record you as alive.

This is the case of Shivdutt Yadav and his two brothers and cousins living in Uttar Pradesh, India, where record officials are often bribed to declare living people dead in fierce competition for land. Yadav’s compelling story is only one chapter – and the inspiration for the title – of American photographer Taryn Simon’s latest body of work, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII, of which the first nine are currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Artist Taryn Simon
Artist Taryn Simon

Taryn Simon recalls, “Photographing these brothers was a disorienting exchange because on paper, they don’t exist, and a photograph is so often used as an evidence of life, yet these men remain dead. This quandary lead to the title of the project, which considers in many ways that we are all the living dead, and that we in some ways represent ghosts of the past and the future.”


Continue reading the original article on the MutualArt website, published in 2012.



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