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Conversations With The Dead

Danny Lyon

“I tried, with the little power I have, to give an image of incarceration that seems as trying as it really is“. Danny Lyon made this bet when he brought out this pioneer book in 1971. He had had the rare privilege to photograph, freely, for 14 months, six Texas penitentiaries. The cells, the daily life, the refectories, showers and legends that sounded like manifests “Forty five years, armed robbery”, or “Life sentence, theft”. It is not difficult with the three strikes law in Texas (or the big bitch as the prisoners call it). If one commits three crimes, even without killing someone, one is automatically sentenced to life in prison. The book includes photographs, fac-similes of sentences, letters and drawings by some emblematic prisoners such as Billy McCune (1928-2007), condemned to death penalty in 1950 for rape and the case was never really proven. This book is a real plea against State violence. The book made history, it helped commute McCune’s sentence, but did not reverse the tendency. At the time the USA had 250 000 prisoners. Today there are over two million.

Conversations With The Dead, by Danny Lyon, Phaidon, 2015, £45

Conversations With The Dead - Danny Lyon

Review published in the newsletter #415 - from 28 January 2016 to 3 February 2016

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