Danny Lyon: Message to the Future

Solo en Inglès

Listen to commentary from scholars Elisabeth Sussman, Todd Gitlin, Julian Cox, and artist Danny Lyon on selected works in the exhibition Danny Lyon: Message to the Future.

Danny Lyon (b. 1942), From the Picket Tower, Ferguson Unit, Texas, 1968. Gelatin silver print. Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

Narrator: In 1967, Lyon applied for access to the Texas state prison system, and was allowed to photograph freely for a period of fourteen months. Here, he captures a scene from a guard tower. We see the inmates themselves, not far from a couple of work horses. We might take the photograph to imply that the prison system equates the prisoners to the animals. As Lyon explained in a 2015 speech to the National Geographic Society, he certainly intended images like this one as indictments of the system. 

Danny Lyon: I entered the Texas prisons determined to destroy them. And once I began to read about prison, and people said things like 'what are you going to do with them'—meaning the inmates—I thought I do not want to be a criminologist. I was not interested in improving prisons. I wanted to destroy them. Now we are in the future. The population of the Texas prisons where I worked was 12,500. Now it is over 200,000. So that body of work, which took over two years of my life, was not a success. 


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