A photo tour of restricted spaces
Battered by an ever-growing torrent of visual stimuli, the American eyeball has shored up its defenses to cope with the digital age. We filter out hundreds of images a day, and the process leaves us numb. So when a young photographer’s work is compelling enough to cut through all the noise and truly resonate, it’s something of an occasion.
Artist Taryn Simon’s latest book is that rare aesthetic object that manages to gratify on both visceral and cerebral levels. Part photo collection, part curio cabinet, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (Steidl) is a study of spaces typically off-limits to the public—secret government facilities, science laboratories, private clubhouses—illuminated by contextual passages that often drastically alter your initial impressions. Over the course of four years, Simon cajoled her way into dozens of obscure restricted sites, five of which are excerpted below, including the seized contraband room at Kennedy airport, a nuclear waste storage facility, and the only building in the United States federally licensed to grow marijuana. And don’t miss the mutant tiger cage.
Taken as a whole, Simon’s capsule sketches of our forbidden chambers form a telling social document of modern America. What we choose to keep hidden away, in this case, says a lot more about us than what we put on display.—Adam Laukhuf
Clinton Township, Michigan
This cryopreservation unit holds the bodies of Rhea and Elaine Ettinger, the mother and first wife of cryonics pioneer, Robert Ettinger. Robert, author of The Prospect of Immortality and Man into Superman is still alive.
The Cryonics Institute offers cryostasis (freezing) services for individuals and pets upon death. Cryostasis is practiced with the hope that lives will ultimately be extended through future developments in science, technology, and medicine. When, and if, these developments occur, Institute members hope to awake to an extended life in good health, free from disease or the aging process. Cryostasis must begin immediately upon legal death. A person or pet is infused with ice-preventive substances and quickly cooled to a temperature where physical decay virtually stops. The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 for cryostasis if it is planned well in advance of legal death and $35,000 on shorter notice.