Taryn Simon: The Color of a Flea’s Eye: the Picture Collection

Taryn Simon highlights the impulse to archive and organize visual information, and shows the invisible hands behind seemingly neutral image collection systems.

Simon sees this vast archive of images as a precursor to Internet search engines. Such an unlikely future in the past is at the heart of The Picture Collection. The digital is prefigured in the analog, at the same time as history – its classifications, its contents – seems to be the matter of projection.

The 460-page book, printed on a variety of unique papers, features Simon’s Picture Collection series created from the famous collection of images held at the New York Public Library. Taryn Simon worked on this project for over 8 years.  


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Since its inception in 1915, the Picture Collection has been a vital resource for writers, historians, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers and advertising agencies.

Taryn Simon’s The Color of a Flea’s Eye presents a history of the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection—a legendary trove of more than one million prints, photographs, postcards, posters and images from disused books and periodicals.