The pictures do not ask you to help these people, but something much more difficult; to be briefly, intensely aware of their existence, an existence as real and significant as your own.
– Danny Lyon
All of Lyon’s publications work in the style of photographic New Journalism, meaning that the photographer has become immersed in, and is a participant of, the documented subject. He is the founding member of the publishing group Bleak Beauty.
Brooklyn native Danny Lyon received a BA in history in 1963 from the University of Chicago, where he served as a staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. A self-taught photographer, he traveled with the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club in 1965-1966 and published his pictures of the club members as The Bikeriders (1968). Since 1967 he has been an independent photographer and an associate at Magnum, and he has made films since 1969. Lyon has received Guggenheim Fellowships in photography and filmmaking, and his work has been included in many major exhibitions, including Toward a Social Landscape at the George Eastman House. His first solo exhibition was held at the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to The Bikeriders, Lyon has published a number of photographic books based upon his experiences with a group of people or in a particular place, among them The Movement (1964), about the Civil Rights movement, and Conversations with the Dead (1971), a study of life in Texas prisons. Among the films he has produced are Social Services 127, Los Niños Abandonados, and Little Boy.
Personal participation in the lives of his subjects is a vital component of Danny Lyon’s photography. His subjects often deviate from societal norms, yet he is dedicated to communicating their character and sensibility honestly, sympathetically, and nonjudgmentally; for him, this requires firsthand knowledge of their experiences. Whereas in his earlier work he seemed to withhold his own personality from the images in order to emphasize that of his subjects, his recent work includes more of himself. Lyon has consistently produced effective, sincere documents of real people’s lives that have inspired many photographers since the 1960s.
He has had solo exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection, the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. Lyon twice received a Guggenheim Fellowship; a Rockefeller Fellowship, Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism; and a Lucie Award.