Since the 1960s, photographer Danny Lyon’s work has been characterized by his full immersion within the lives of his subjects. Lyon began his career as the first staff photographer for the civil rights group the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an experience that sparked his lifelong commitment to social justice. He describes himself as “a dissenter in my own country,” and this spirit of rebellion has led him to turn his camera toward those who are outside the mainstream. But far from acting as a voyeur, Lyon invests himself fully with his subjects, often living with them for years at a time and becoming deeply and personally familiar with their lives. The resulting images offer a uniquely intimate vision—an empathetic and emotive insider’s view.
The photographs are drawn from three bodies of work created from 1963 to 1980, with subjects ranging from bikeriders on a race track, to prisoners in a cotton field, to children in the streets of Colombia. For each image, Lyon presents this challenge to us as viewers: “The pictures do not ask you to ‘help’ these people, but something much more difficult; to be briefly and intensely aware of their existence, an existence as real and significant as your own.”
Image: Crossing the Ohio, Louisville, 1966, Danny Lyon, American, b. 1942, gelatin silver photograph, 8 11/16 x 13 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Steven and Judith Clifford in honor of the museum's 50th year, 83.288.10, © Artist or Artist’s Estate.