• The Innocents

    The Innocents (2000–2003) documents the stories of individuals who served time in prison for violent crimes they did not commit. At issue is the question of photography’s function as a credible eyewitness and arbiter of justice.

    A primary cause of wrongful conviction is mistaken identification. A victim or eyewitness identifies a suspect through law enforcement’s use of photographs and lineups. These identifications rely on the assumption of precise visual memory. But through exposure to composite sketches, mugshots, Polaroids, and lineups, eyewitness memory can change. In these cases, photography offered the criminal legal system a tool that assisted officers in obtaining erroneous eyewitness identifications and aided prosecutors in securing convictions.

    Simon photographed each person at a site that came to assume particular significance following their wrongful conviction: the scene of misidentification, the scene of arrest, the alibi location, the scene of the crime. In the history of these legal cases, these locations have been assigned contradictory meanings. The scene of arrest marks the starting point of a reality based in fiction. The scene of the crime is at once arbitrary and crucial—a place that changed their lives forever, but to which they had never been. In these photographs, Simon confronts photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction—an ambiguity that can have severe, even lethal consequences.