'When Brooklyn-born photographer Danny Lyon moved to East Texas to spend a year documenting life inside of the penitentiary system, he had every intent on destroying the system.'
In 1968, photo journalist Danny Lyon spent 14 months photographing inside the Texas penitentiary system, these images are a small sample of what he found. Lyon's process has always been to immerse himself totally into a project, and his his time working on Conversations with the Dead, Lyons got to know many men living within the Texas penal system. It was Lyon's conversations, as well as drawings and letters, from one particular inmate, Billy McCune, that dominates the story along with Lyon's incredible photos.
Prison stories have always fascinating me, maybe more directly, the personal stories and journey's of the prisoners making their way through the system. Although the mainstream media has done an incredible job reporting stories, visually, Hollywood's depiction of prison life has often dominated what many think prison life is all about.
Even gritty, realistic dramas like OZ only tell one side of the story. The stories in OZ are no doubt grabbed from factual accounts, but they don't really offer much insight into the day to day struggles of coping with a life behind bars.
Although published in 1971, Lyon's 1969 visual chronicle of the Texas prison system reveals not just what it like for the men in his images, it also gives a great view of the male form during this period of history. Right off the bat, segregation is evident, with few photos of images or moments of diversity.
Although some States still require able bodied prisoners to work, not every prison, in every State, requires prisoners to do hard labor. Texas however, which is responsible for the largest prisoner population in the country, is known as one of the most profitable prison systems in the country due to their penal labor programs. Although I'm sure prisoners have a few more rights today than they did in the sixties, Texas remains only one of four States that doesn't have a system to pay prisoners for their work.
Looking at the men in Lyon's images, it was also fascinating how few tattoo's were visible. If the images were taken today, we know the amount of tattoo's would be considerably higher. Although the men worked hard, and also had access to work out equipment, the men are not overly built up. Part of this may be due to diet, or the amount of food they were given, but most of the men are lean, fit, but not overly muscled. Any of the men who appear a bit heavier, are guards.
Despite the circumstances, there is also an undeniably erotic element within the images. Although prisoners are routinely strip searched today, the group nudity during shake downs would not be as acceptable today. The power dynamic between the nude prisoners and the fully clothed prison guards certainly has a voyeuristic feel, it's not necessarily sexual, although there is a definite lecherous and degrading feel to the images. If you want to see more, Lyon's book is still available to purchase on Amazon and other site.
I first British model Warren Godman awhile ago, but only recently discovered his Instagram page. The English model's beautiful brown eyes draw your attention to any image he's in, and the rest of him, well.... more than holds the viewers attention.
'Instruye al niño en el camino correcto y aun en su vejez no lo abandonará'
In his t-shirt and ball cap Robert could be almost anybody. His beautiful face and sexy dark eyes, don't give away many clues about the man beneath the CrossFit hoodie. When Robert takes his clothes off however, his secrets are harder to hide. His Blessings chest tattoo is prominent and bold. The verse from Proverbs also speak to his faith, and his lesson from childhood, literally left their mark.
Most people who get tattoo's do so for a reason, to commemorate a significant or impact life event. For models, especially those who expose a lot of skin, tattoo's also act as a bit of a prologue, to the stories about those who don them. During Robert's shoot with San Diego based photographer Steve Jerome, Robert's tattoos actually disclosed more than the model himself.
'Dedicated to his work, Robert was extremely cooperative and a real pleasure to work with. He appeared to be keenly interested in modeling as a career. The only thing that would have made the shoot better is if he talked more so I could learn more about him. I'm sure he has some interesting stories to tell!'
As soon as I saw Steve's shots of Robert, I too felt there must be some interesting stories to tell. Steven usually likes to get to know the models he shoots a little bit, but Robert remained a bit of a mystery. Even though he didn't say much, Steve said his camera loved Robert, and his facial expressions were extremely telling. He could also tell that Robert's tats were very significant to him.
Robert's beautiful eyes, and his tattoo's weren't the bread crumbs he left. There were other clues, a couple, I'm sure a few sharp eyed sleuths have already deduced... If Robert looks familiar, it' may be because some of you have seen his work in adult films. Steve didn't initially know about Robert's video work, not that it would mattered, but it wasn't until well after the shoot that he found out.
Although it wasn't really a surprise when Steve found out, it did add to the paradox between the adult film actor, and the shy model standing nude in front of his lens. Steve remembers the shyness not being a negative or hindrance at all. In fact, Steve shares that the contradiction between Robert's strong, masculine appearance, and his shy demeanor actually added an erotic element to the final images.
'There is something very sexy about a young man who is quiet and shy while he is also drop dead gorgeous and in great shape. Having Robert in the studio naked and vulnerable was exciting and erotic, and his photos demonstrate that very well.'
If you're as intrigued by Robert, and his not so mysterious skin, as I was, Steve has more shots on his site HERE: and hundreds of additional images for those who are interested.