Danny Lyon

(Brooklyn, New York, 1942 - )

North America, American

A self-taught photographer, Danny Lyon studied history at the University of Chicago, graduating with a BA in 1963. That same year he published his first photographs taken while working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee involved in the growing Civil Rights Movement. Even at this early point in his career, Lyon demonstrated an interest in photographing his peers rather than strangers. Lyon has gone on to become an influential and transformative figure in the field of documentary photography. He was a leading figure in the emerging style called New Journalism, in which the artist immerses himself with his subjects as an active participant, not an objective observer. The subjects Lyon chooses are often perceived as outsiders without a voice in the mainstream. Following college, Lyon became a member of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club and recorded both the images and voices of its members. He represented them not as counterculture rebels but as street-smart heros. The Bikeriders, published in 1968, was Lyons defining first photography book. It became one of the most important and influential documentary series of the late 20th century and only the second publication using text derived from taped interviews. His next major project, which premiered in 1971, was Conversations with the Dead, an intense, inside look at the inmates of the Texas prison system. Both of these ground-breaking series are represented in the museum’s collection. Lyon has received numerous awards including two Guggenheim Fellowships, one for photography and a decade later one for film. He has published more than 20 books of photography and his artwork is in many important collections including The George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, The Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the National Gallery of Art. Lyon remains a deeply engaged artist who continues to photograph, make films and raise awareness documenting Native Americans, the peoples of Shanxi, China, and - in 2011- the Occupy movement in America.

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