This photograph, perhaps the most famous from Clark's Tulsa series, is presented here as a rare large-format print. Clark's images from Tulsa are more frequently seen as later prints on 11-by-14-inch paper. This early print, rendered large on 20-by-16-inch paper, magnifies the impact of this now-iconic image.
The photograph shows Billy Mann, one of several friends and companions Clark documented from 1963 to 1971 in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Filled with gritty images of drugs, violence, and sex, Clark's photographs present a dystopian alternative to the youthful optimism of the 1960s. Clark debuted these images in his landmark book, Tulsa, published by Ralph Gibson's Lustrum Press in 1971, and this picture of the gun-toting Billy Mann was chosen for the cover. Within the book, the photograph resides on its own double-page spread, across from a quote by Mann himself: 'death is more perfect than life.' Mann died of a drug overdose in 1970, and the caption beneath the illustration reads simply, 'dead 1970.'
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