Danny Lyon & New Photojournalism

Keavy Handley-Byrne of the Photographs & Photobooks department contributed to this post on Danny Lyon’s eponymous portfolio in our April 20 auction of Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks.

 

The New Journalism movement in literature has its own titans – Joan Didion, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, among others – but no photographer better represents the idea of New Photojournalism than Danny Lyon, a master visual storyteller.

 

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Truckin' in the desert near Yuma, Arizona, 1962, from Danny Lyon, complete portfolio with 30 photographs, silver prints, New York, 1962-79, printed 1979. Estimate $30,000 to $45,000.

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Truckin’ in the Desert Near Yuma, Arizona, 1962, from Danny Lyon, complete portfolio with 30 photographs, silver prints,
New York, 1962-79, printed 1979. Estimate $30,000 to $45,000.

 

Like Didion and Capote, Lyon is known for immersing himself fully and subjectively into the lives of his subjects. This is particularly clear in Bikeriders, his series depicting the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club (of which he was a member), where we see the riders as if from another bike. The point of view is a rare one, considering the difficulty of photographing while riding a motorcycle!

 

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Jack, Chicago, 1965-66, from Danny Lyon

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Jack, Chicago, 1965-66, from Danny Lyon, complete portfolio with 30 photographs, silver prints, New York, 1962-79, printed 1979. Estimate $30,000 to $45,000.

 

Lyon is also well-known for his activism during the Civil Rights Movement, which he photographed extensively; this examination of the lives of people of color living under the tyranny of racism may have influenced Conversations with the Dead, his examination of prison life in the southern United States in the late 1960s. In the series, Lyon lives up to the name of his publishing imprint, Bleak Beauty; the photographs are raw and, at times, uncomfortable, but have a strong sense of light and formal composition.

 

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Showers, Diagnostic Unit, Texas, 1967-69, from Danny Lyon,

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Showers, Diagnostic Unit, Texas, 1967-69, from Danny Lyon, complete portfolio with 30 photographs, silver prints,
New York, 1962-79, printed 1979. Estimate $30,000 to $45,000.

 

Lyon, who has always had something of a cult following, was recently the subject of a critically acclaimed retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Shakedown, Ramsey Unit, Texas, 1967-69, from Danny Lyon

Lot 199: Danny Lyon, Shakedown, Ramsey Unit, Texas, 1967-69, from Danny Lyon, complete portfolio with 30 photographs, silver prints,
New York, 1962-79, printed 1979. Estimate $30,000 to $45,000.

 

The works in his self-titled portfolio remain an important touchstone more than 40 years later, using Lyon’s journalistic but empathetic eye to translate the timely stories of his subjects.

 

For more portfolios, browse our full catalogue.