the photographer highlighting flaws in the american dream

As an exhibition of photographs by the renowned American documentary photographer Danny Lyon go on show at London’s Beetles + Huxley, find out more about the man who shot everything from U.S. biker culture to the Texas prison system to the Civil Rights...

by Matthew Whitehouse
25 October 2016, 1:37pm

two years, burglary, 1968

"The use of the camera has always been for me a tool of investigation," said renowned American photographer Danny Lyon, born in 1942, to the same Queens neighborhood that would later birth fellow chroniclers of American life The Ramones. "A reason to travel, to not mind my own business, and often to get into trouble." That trouble sprung from the way in which Lyon would often immerse himself in the lives of his subjects, utilizing a self-taught style known as New Journalism and creating images that were both deeply empathetic and powerfully arresting.

Memorial Day Run, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1966 

Perhaps his most famous of these are the great bodies of documentary work he produced in the 1960s, before the age of 30. Exploring U.S. biker culture, the Texas prison system and, most significantly, the American Civil Rights Movement — a series that began when the then 21 year old Lyon hitchhiked to protests taking place in Cairo, Illinois — it is these images that form the backbone of an exhibition at London's Beetles + Huxley gallery, open tomorrow, October 26, through November 26. Pertinent at a time when American politics stands at a particularly divisive crossroads, we see a focus here on groups marginalized by the public and vilified by the press. The free spirit of biker culture contrasts with distressing imprisonments of race and class, poverty and violence.

Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, 1963 

"Danny Lyon has devoted his career to long-term photographic projects that highlight flaws in the American Dream, with particular reference to race, social justice and minority sub-cultures" says Giles Huxley-Parlour, director of Beetles + Huxley. "We are pleased to bring an exhibition of his work to London at a time when American politics is front-page news, showing that many of the issues that Lyon has covered are longstanding and apparently yet to be resolved."

Weight-lifters, Ramsey, 1968 

The Line, Texas, Ferguson Unit, TDC, 1967 

Route 12, Wisconsin, 1963

Danny Lyon is at Beetles + Huxley Gallery between October 26 - November 26. 


Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Danny Lyon
All images courtesy of Beetles + Huxley

Danny Lyon
london exhibitions
beetles + huxley