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No More Cotton-Pickin Prisons
Maker: Danny Lyon
Date Made: circa 1971
Place Made: United States: Texas
Measurements: 27.8 cm x 41 cm; 10 15/16 in x 16 1/8 in
Main Subject: Prisons & Prisoners
Materials: paper (fiber product)
No More Cotton-Pickin Prisons Photo By Danny Lyons [sic Danny Lyon] Ferguson Unit. Texas Department Of Corrections
Acquisition Number: 1999-198
Photo taken 1968; photo first published 1971. Poster produced after, but not by Danny Lyon, nor with his knowledge.
Copyright status unknown; may be protected by copyright law.
One of the most prominent and influential photojournalists of the late twentieth century, Danny Lyon began documenting the civil rights movement in 1964 as a member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At a time when photographers were rarely allowed in prisons, Lyon photographed seven prisons in the Texas prison system in 1967-68, and published them in "Conversations With the Dead" (1971), including the photograph used here. Six years after "Conversations with the Dead" was published, it was used by the U.S. Justice Department in a massive lawsuit against the Texas prison system. Lyon testified and the pictures were introduced as evidence. The prisoners won the suit, and the prison system was temporarily improved. Thirty years later, in a 1995 interview by Nan Goldin, (Artforum, 9/95), Lyon said, "Actually it's supposed to be worse now. Since then the demographics of prisons have just gone the other way; the prison population has quadrupled since I photographed in Texas a generation ago. Still, my photographs were used by people who meant well to try to change prison conditions, and for a while prison conditions were forced to change.”