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Danny LyonThe 1968 book The Bikeriders featured photographs by Danny Lyon, one of the most important documentary photographers and filmmakers to come of age in the 1960s, which chronicle the activities of the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club from 1963 to 1967. Lyon became a member of the Outlaws and documented the daily lives of its members from the seat of his Triumph motorcycle, equipped with a Nikon, a Rolleiflex and a seven-pound portable tape recorder. In 1968, his photographs were published in the landmark book, The Bikeriders, which not only launched his career, but also introduced motorcycle counterculture to mainstream America, paving the way for the film Easy Rider. The book was so influential that it was republished twice, in 1998 and 2003.
With the publication of The Bikeriders, at the age of 26, Lyon pioneered a new form of documentary photography in which the photographer was both a participant and an observer. Unlike his mentor, the influential photographer Robert Frank, who photographed mainstream America in the 1950s from the critical perspective of the outsider, Lyon worked from the inside photographing those on the margins. His direct engagement with his subjects provided a meaningful alternative to the photojournalism practiced by LIFE magazine and set him apart from the new generation of street photographers like Bruce Davidson, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. The juxtaposition of interviews of the Outlaws, together with Lyon’s beautifully composed photographs in The Bikeriders, also provided a new model for the photography book.
During this period Lyon also marched against segregation as the first official photographer for SNCC (the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee); documented the destruction of timeworn buildings in lower Manhattan to make way for the Twin Towers; and devoted months to befriending and photographing the inmates of Texas maximum security prisons, including the notorious death-row “Walls Unit” at Huntsville Prison. Since the 1960s, Lyon has undertaken diverse projects publishing more than 20 books, most recently, Deep Sea Diver: An American Photographer's Journey in Shanxi, China (2011). Lyon is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker with over a dozen films to his credit. He has been the subject of over fifty solo exhibitions, including retrospective exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007-8) and The Menil Collection (2012). His work is collected by museums in the United States and Europe, including the American Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institute; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Folkwang Museum, The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, The Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and more.
Throughout his long and productive career, Danny Lyon has remained uncompromising in his commitment to giving voice to those who might otherwise not be heard.
[Courtesy Etherton Gallery]