Attempted Smuggled Items Shows Airport’s Dark Side

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Fake Louis Vuitton handbags, cigars, steroids, date rape drugs and animal parts- these items apparently represent the dark side of American desires.

This was what internationally renowned photographer, Taryn Simon, saw when she spent five days and nights, sleeping on an air mattress, photographing illicit commodities trying to get through federal inspection sites at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the busiest international air passenger gateway to the United States.

Simon told CNN that cataloging what is banned and unseen is a good way to understand American identity. “You confront American desire through the endless counterfeit goods that traffic through customs,” said Simon. “There’s numbing repetition to its mainstays—Louis Vuitton bags, Nike sneakers, counterfeit gold, counterfeit Viagra, illegal steroids. The photographs collectively build a portrait of escape and consumerism while revealing a new world of black market production that threatens American business interests,” she said.

The result of the project is “Contraband”, a 1075-photographic series that will be exhibited in New York and Beverly Hills, California. A 500-page book with the same title is coming out soon.