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Danny Lyon

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Danny Lyon
American contemporary Photographer
American, b. 1942
Danny Lyon (1942- ) is one of the most original documentary photographers of the late 20th century. Lyon grew up in a middle-class section of New York City and began to make photographs at the age of 17. He studied history at the University of Chicago and in 1962 joined the civil rights movement, becoming staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His SNCC photographs are powerful, behind-the-scenes views of the struggle for racial equality; they depict the courage and idealism of those in the movement as well as the hatred and violence employed by segregationists. During the next three decades, Lyon's photography concentrated on the lives of the poor, ignored, and disenfranchised. He photographed motorcycle gang members, inmates in Texas penitentiaries, and demolition derby drivers. He documented destruction of Lower Manhattan through urban renewal, revolution in Haiti, and life in inner-city Brooklyn. In 1969 Lyon began making films, which include Llanito, Little Boy, and Willie.

Lyon worked sporadically for the Federal Government as a photographer from 1972 through 1974, completing several assignments for the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. In 1972 and 1973 he photographed the Rio Grande Valley and the Chicano barrio of South El Paso, Texas, as well as Galveston, and Houston, Texas. In 1974 he photographed the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. Lyon's images from these assignments mirror the concerns of his non-Governmental work. They depict ethnic neighborhoods under attack by outside forces, including Federally driven policies such as urban renewal. His photographs seek to preserve and record these communities before they were destroyed. That Lyon felt free to criticize the very Government that was employing him says a great deal about the freedom given to DOCUMERICA photographers.

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