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Book of the Week: A Pick by Lex Thompson

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Lex Thompson Photographer Lex Thompson selects Birds of the West Indies by Taryn Simon as photo-eye Book of the Week.
Birds of the West Indies. By Taryn Simon.
Hatje Cantz, 2014.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from photographer Lex Thompson who has selected Birds of the West Indies by Taryn Simon published by Hatje Cantz.

"The recent Bond films have expunged all of the camp and humor from a franchise that previously featured names like Pussy Galore, a weaponized Bowler hat, and a crocodile shaped mini-sub. These, and every other Bond vehicle, weapon, and woman are cataloged in Taryn Simon’s index Birds of the West Indies. The only iconic thing missing is martinis, but those remain the same film after film – shaken not stirred. This index, however, is very much shaken and stirred (by the Mersenne Twister random number generator) to emphasize how interchangeable each of these elements is within the films’ plotlines.

The book takes its form from ornithologist James Bond’s (for whom avid birdwatcher Ian Fleming named the super-spy) book of the same title. Rather than tropical birds, however, Simon presents a typology of the super-spy’s accessories from all of the Bond films to date. Any ostentatious items are tempered by Simon’s taxonomic form, though some of these Bond birds remain as flamboyant as anything his namesake may have observed on islands in the Caribbean Basin. Weapons and vehicles are timeless props displayed against black, while the women are photographed, aged into the present, against a cream background that separates them from the other artifacts, cracking the veneer of their narrative objectification. A number of actresses refused to participate. Labels and black boxes hold their place.

The book closes with a list of the birds from Bond’s 1937 guide, stripped of information and illustrations. Common and scientific names are only amended with a notation for their migratory habit. They are reduced to a minimal status emphasizing only their freedom of movement from one place to another, just as a 1971 Ford Mustang in Diamonds Are Forever can be a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud in A View to a Kill."—Lex Thompson

Purchase Book

Birds of the West Indies. By Taryn Simon. Hatje Cantz, 2014.
Birds of the West Indies. By Taryn Simon. Hatje Cantz, 2014.

Lex Thompson’s work focuses on manifestations of hope and failure in the American landscape. Obtaining a BA in history at New College of Florida and a MA in Religion and Visual Arts at Yale University, he received his MFA in Photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. He is Professor of Art (Photography) at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. He is recipient of a 2010 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, a 2008 & 2011 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and was selected as a 2009 Flash Forward Emerging Photographer. His artwork is included in collections at the Getty Research Institute, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, and Yale University, among others.

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