Cotton Pickers, Texas Prison 1968 (a.k.a. The Cotton Pickers, Ferguson Unit, Texas) by Danny Lyon

Cotton Pickers, Texas Prison 1968 (a.k.a. The Cotton Pickers, Ferguson Unit, Texas) by Danny Lyon

Cotton Pickers, Texas Prison 1968 (a.k.a. The Cotton Pickers, Ferguson Unit, Texas)

Danny Lyon

Title

Cotton Pickers, Texas Prison 1968 (a.k.a. The Cotton Pickers, Ferguson Unit, Texas)

 
Artist
Year
1968  
Technique
Gelatin silver print 
Image Size
9 3/16 x 13 3/4" image; 11 x 13-15/16" sheet 
Signature
pencil signed on verso 
Edition Size
not formally editioned 
Annotations
pencil titled and dated on verso; pencil numbered "713-23A". 
Reference
 
Paper
semi-gloss photo paper 
State
 
Publisher
artist 
Inventory ID
23157 
Price
$3,500.00 
Description

One of Danny Lyon's most iconic images, this is a vintage printing from 1968 and is signed, dated, and titled by the photographer on the verso. This image is printed on an 11 x 14" sheet of paper.

In a New York Time Magazine article from March 17, 2017 reviewer Teju Cole remarks: "Danny Lyon’s photograph “The Cotton Pickers” makes me tense. I love and hate it at the same time. The photograph is from the late 1960s, but its form is so iconic and its atmosphere so fabular that it could have been made a hundred years earlier. On a wide field, men are stooped over in agricultural labor. The field stretches a great distance back, ending in a line of trees that marks out the horizon. The men working the field are dressed all in white. They have long white sacks on their backs and white hats on their heads. It’s hard to tell exactly how many of them there are, perhaps just under three dozen, but the four or five in front are distinct. These men in front, in addition to being dressed similarly, are stooped in unison. Their faces are very dark, devoid of detail. It cannot be said with certainty that they are black men (they could simply be caught in deep daytime shadow), but they very likely are.

This photograph (“The Cotton Pickers, Ferguson Unit, Texas,” to give it its full title) has an extraordinary sense of rhythm, a rhythm that makes it as visually arresting as René Burri’s photograph of four men on a rooftop in São Paulo. “The Cotton Pickers” was taken on a prison farm. The long curve of each man’s back is continuous with the line of the sack slung from his shoulder and set down behind him on the ground. This gives each man a strange profile, as though he were some long-bodied, giant-tailed marsupial. The photograph has such high contrast that it looks more like an engraving or a painting.

Set against the field’s darkness, the cotton crop is floral in effect, or astral. Or, as the escaped slave Solomon Northup wrote in a surprising passage in his 1853 memoir, “Twelve Years a Slave”: “There are few sights more pleasant to the eye, than a wide cotton field when it is in the bloom. It presents an appearance of purity, like an immaculate expanse of light, new-fallen snow.”