A Revered Photojournalist’s Chronicle of Lower Manhattan on the Brink of Transformation

In the sixties, when sixty acres below Canal Street were slated for clearing, Danny Lyon documented disappearing traces of life dating back to before the Civil War.

In 1966, after several years spent rambling around the country photographing a Chicago-based motorcycle club, Danny Lyon returned to his native New York City. Lyon had previously worked as the staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and when he moved into a downtown apartment on Beekman Street, at the age of twenty-five, he was already well on the way to making a name for himself. Beekman was dotted with boarded-up buildings. Lyon learned that the block was among the sixty acres below Canal Street slated for clearing, areas that had once been a hub of thriving printing and produce industries but had bled out economically after the Second World War. As Elisabeth Sussman notes in the catalogue for “Message to the Future,” a recent retrospective of Lyon’s work at the Whitney, powerful developers, like David Rockefeller and Robert Moses, saw potential profit in remaking these spaces. But when Lyon looked at them he saw “fossils,” traces of life dating back to before the Civil War. So, with funding from the The New York State Council on the Arts, he set out with a view camera, slipping in and out of demolition sites from the East River to the Hudson. In a project he titled “The Destruction of Lower Manhattan,” he photographed the folks leaving buildings and those tearing them down, and, in so doing, documented the social dismantling that buzzes under every project billed as urban renewal.

The Freedom to Be Danny Lyon

A late-career retrospective looks at some four decades of work by Danny Lyon, whose photographs — of the civil rights movement, prisons and a motorcycle gang — consider freedom, or its absence.

“Danny Lyon: Message to the Future” opens on June 17 at the Whitney Museum of Art, and will feature films and photographs by the celebrated, if combative, photographer

An Unfinished Prison Story

Danny Lyon reflects on the decades since the publication of his seminal portrait of prison life.

In 1967, Danny Lyon, a young photographer from New York who had spent the beginning of his career documenting the civil-rights movement, was granted permission by the Texas Department of Corrections to photograph freely inside the state’s penitentiaries

Ferguson Images Evoke Civil Rights Era and Changing Visual Perceptions

The photographs of unrest in Ferguson after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer have drawn comparisons to pictures of the Deep South in the 1960s.

“It didn’t look like America. It looked like Soweto,” Danny Lyon said, referring to the South African township that was a hotbed of protests against apartheid. “It looked like soldiers. And soldiers’ job isn’t to protect. Their job is to kill people and to be ready to die.”

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LightBox presents a special preview of the season’s best photography books, featuring releases as varied as a monograph on Danny Lyon; inspired contemporary work by Richard Renaldi; a poignant reflection on the lingering anxieties of war by Peter van Agtmael; and a re-envisioned edition of Jim Goldberg’s groundbreaking 1985 book, Rich and Poor.

Nat Geo Seminar: Danny Lyon Criticizes Media; Says How He Would Edit National Geographic | PDNPulse

Photojournalist Danny Lyon delivered a sharp critique of the media, explained the main goal of his career, and reminisced about his work on the civil rights movement, motorcycle gangs and Texas prisoners at a rare public appearance last week. Lyon was the

Photojournalist Danny Lyon delivered a sharp critique of the media, explained the main goal of his career, and reminisced about his work on the civil rights movement, motorcycle gangs and Texas prisoners at a rare public appearance last week.

Down South: Greenwood Revisited

Last week, the Virginia-based photographer Matt Eich hosted The New Yorker’s Instagram feed from Greenwood, Mississippi, which he has been documenting for the past several years, for a project about the town’s race and class disparity.

Rediscovering the Urban Palette

From the earliest hand-tinted postcards to kinetic, digital images, the sidewalks of New York have been muse and model to countless color photographers.

“New York in Color” is just that – a hefty tome spanning a century of Gotham in photographs, from hand-tinted postcards to tack-sharp and super-saturated digital shots. Many of the names are familiar — Danny Lyon, Burt Glinn, Helen Levitt and Joel Meyerowitz. But the thrill for Bob Shamis, the photographer, historian and curator who is the book’s author, was rooting dozens of images that had not been seen before.

AMERICANSUBURB X: INTERVIEW: "Doing Life – Nan Goldin with Danny Lyon (1995)"

Lyon is a journalist, but not by the usual '90s definition. Whether he was photographing the Civil Rights Movement in the American South in the '60s or the guerrilla uprising in Mexico in the '90s, his journalism is not about the surface, the sensational, the soundbite; it is imbued with his respect for the people he photographs, and with the commitment and responsibility this respect entails. Now, in his collages, Lyon has come up with an emotional kind of journalism exploring classes and cultures and the options that people are allowed. Claiming the same credibility for his personal images as for his more conventional documentary pictures, he has made some of his most political and most moving work to date.

The End of the Age of Photography by Danny Lyon

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AMERICANSUBURB X: THEORY: “The End of the Age of Photography by Danny Lyon (2007)”:

Many years ago I was being driven along central park west in a NYC Taxi and talking with Robert Frank whom I sat beside. When I spoke of using words with photography, texts, as part of what were then called “photography books”, Robert said, “well, then that’s the end of it.” . The year was 1969, and it was “not the end of it.” As a young photographer, deep into a career of making picture books, with texts, I couldn’t help but feel that Frank’s comment smacked a bit of kicking out the ladder. After all, the work of Frank that had stunned the world was a virtually wordless portrait of America, done with a Leica and a couple lenses.1

Thirty six years have passed since that conversation in a taxi cab, and as I sit here
at the east end of Long Island, watching my fishing boat “the Nanook” bob and dip at its moorings, pounded by strong southwest winds, I wonder if I am recreating Frank’s error with what I am now writing.

Danny Lyon, Stubbornly Practicing His Principles of Photography


From NYTimes.com:

At a time when picture magazines were still a holy grail for young photographers, Danny Lyon, self-taught, began his career as the first staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A week after hitchhiking south in 1962 at the age of 20 he was in jail with other protesters in Albany, Ga., next to the cell of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And Mr. Lyon’s first book, the classic “Bikeriders,” made after spending more than two years as a member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, was not just a pioneering example of New Journalism but, as he later described it, an attempt “to destroy Life magazine” and what he saw as its anodyne vision of American life.

Check it out here.