We were first impressed by Taryn Simon’s work when we uncovered these photos she shot of bizarre contraband items found at JFK Airport in New York City. The conceptual photographer has also documented cases of wrongful conviction in the U.S. for her project, The Innocents. “At issue is the question of photography’s function as a credible eyewitness and arbiter of justice,” she writes on her website.
The number one cause for each individual’s conviction is mistaken identification, chosen through law enforcement’s use of photographs and lineups. Simon points out how an eye witness’ visual memory can change after being exposed to multiple mugshots, sketches, and other police aids — turning innocents into criminals. The men in the series were photographed at sites that related directly to their conviction, several at the scene of the crime. The artist has also captured images at the scene of arrest, misidentification, and more. Click through for a closer look at Simon’s haunting portraits.
Scene of arrest, The Royal Inn, Gary, Indiana
Police found Mayes hiding beneath a mattress in this room
Served 18.5 years of an 80-year sentence for Rape, Robbery, and Unlawful Deviate Conduct, 2002