Contraband by Taryn Simon
Contraband* comprises 1075 photographs taken at US customs and the United States Postal Service’s international mail facility at JFK Airport in New York. American photographer Taryn Simon talked her way in to catalogue the suspicious or contraband items seized from passengers and packages over a seven-day period.
A dead bird, wings strung up, beak agape, lies on a blue-and-red lined envelope. Alongside this, images of similar oddities: butterflies, bongs, animal bones, dried foods, semiautomatic weapons, alcohol and cigarettes.
In this liminal space, the bird and the durries, a duck tongue and a counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbag are all equal, and Simon records each on clear white backgrounds with the same unblinking precision.
This show has been exhibited all over the world, but it makes more sense here in Australia than anywhere else, where customs authorities have a military-like presence at airports, and reality show Border Security has a loyal following.