Photo Credit: Danny Lyon via Wikimedia
Houses and trees in the Fifth Ward OF Houston, Texas.

Fotomuseum Winterthur, a museum of photography in Winterthur, Switzerland, has launched “Message to the Future,” a comprehensive retrospective of the work of Jewish-American photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon. Lyon’s style, photographic New Journalism, immerses the artist with his objects until he becomes a participant in the documented subject. Lyon is the founding member of the publishing group Bleak Beauty.

A dedicated and sharp-eyed observer fascinated by outsiders and subcultures, Lyon has spent more than fifty years documenting sociopolitical topics, delving deep into the heart of the matter and always building a close rapport with the people in front of his camera.

Young men of the second ward, El Paso’s classic “Barrio” near the Mexican border / Photo credit: Danny Lyon via Wikimedia

Determined to counter the one-sided preoccupations of the mainstream media by offering an alternative viewpoint, Lyon has developed an increasingly subjective and participatory form of documentary photography in the tradition of Walker Evans and Robert Frank. In addition to his iconic images, this wide-ranging retrospective exhibition also includes, for the first time in Europe, some of his lesser-known films, collages and fascinating material from Lyon’s own archives.

Lyon’s earliest photographs were part of the US Civil Rights Movement. In 1962, at the age of 20, he hitch-hiked to Illinois, to shoot his first rally. As official photographer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lyon produced iconic images documenting the violent clashes between demonstrators and police in the south. Most recently, in the fall of 2011, he captured the Occupy protests in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland and Albuquerque.

Gaede’s wrecking yard / Photo credit: Danny Lyon via Wikimedia

Lyon was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian-Jewish mother Rebecca Henkin and German-Jewish father Dr. Ernst Fredrick Lyon. He was raised in Kew Gardens, Queens, and left to study history and philosophy at the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1963.

In 1965, Lyon joined the motorcycle gang Chicago Outlaws, and documented their life on the road. In 1967, in Lower Manhattan, he photographed the demolition of the area where the Trade Towers were to be erected. He spent 14 months with inmates in Texas prisons, documenting their everyday lives. In the 1970s and ’80s, Lyons went to Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia and Haiti, documenting the lives of illegal workers, street children, and the overthrowing of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

Watch Danny Lyon’s work here.

Danny Lyon exhibition poster / Photo credit: Courtesy Fotomuseum Winterthur

Fotomuseum Winterthur, Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45, CH-8400 Winterthur

Hours: Tue–Sun 11 AM–6 PM, Wed 11 AM–8 PM., Mon closed. New: Wednesdays 5–8 PM free entry.


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