New York of 1974: The Photography of Danny Lyon4 min read
Danny Lyon evocatively captures the New York City of 1974: in all its glory, decay, struggles and joy.
Danny Lyon chronicled America in the turbulent times of the 60s and the 70s, and is legendary for his coverage of events that were to prove turning points in America’s history. His work, an example of the New Journalism movement, covered subjects such as the American Civil Rights Movement, the Texas prisons, and the bike gangs of 1970s Chicago.
Lyon’s work is politically charged and captures the cultural and ethnic diversity of America in the 70s.
Perhaps the fascinating example of this is his series of photographs on New York City, part of the DOCUMERICA series in the summer of 1974. Lyon captures the times as he chronicles the daily life in the streets of New York City and its neighbourhoods. It is an intriguing look back at the times that evocatively illuminates the America of 1974.
Danny Lyon’s work is electrifying and deeply personal, yet politically significant. His choice of subjects – whether it’s photographing the victims of the penal system in the prisons of Texas (chronicled in this book) – “I spent 14 months talking to these guys. They broke my heart. Prison is one story after another, and every one breaks your heart. I was young enough then to care.” (source) – or that of documenting the Outlaws motor gang – speaks for itself. Conscience is deeply ingrained in Lyon’s work, as is the beautiful and terrible nature of reality. He manages to be politically forceful and creates something beautiful and lasting in the process.
Also highly recommended is his visual autobiography – Memories of Myself, what he once described as the “product of political calculus”. It fully brings out the majesty and the raw honesty of his work and his life, and contains photo essays from his travels from everywhere to Brooklyn to Haiti to China. Like the rest of his work, Memories is a powerful tribute to one of the greatest photographers and one of the most important voices in journalism.
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