For over 50 years Lyon has demonstrated a consistent engagement with social and political issues and concern for many of the people he photographed. The exhibition features vintage photographs from Silverman Museum Collection, some of which were featured in Lyon’s museum show.
“I am proud to have represented Danny Lyon for over 35 years and to be able to exhibit the work of this world class photographer and film maker once again in Tucson. It is an excellent opportunity for Tucsonans to see this extraordinary body of work,” said gallery owner Terry Etherton.
The highlight of Present Future, the Silverman Museum Collection, includes 62 vintage gelatin silver prints, a number of which were included in Lyon’s Whitney Museum opener.The show also features a selection of never before seen “mural” size photographs along with other vintage and modern photographs from Lyon’s major projects. These include: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, The Bikeriders, Conversations with the Dead, Uptown Chicago, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, as well as later work. Influenced by writer William Agee and photographer and film maker Robert Frank, Lyon immersed himself in the lives of his subjects, creating individual bodies of work accompanied by innovative books that documented their lives, whether it was a young civil rights worker – now Congressman – John Lewis or convicted rapist Billy McCune.
Upon graduating from the University of Chicago, Lyon set off on his motorcycle first to Cairo, IL and then Danville, Selma, Montgomery and Atlanta documenting the efforts of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee to train and organize civil rights workers. For his next project, he became a member of the Chicago Outlaws, a motorcycle club, while riding, living with and photographing the members of the club. During this time, Lyon also turned his attention to the plight of poor white families who had migrated from the South to Chicago in search of jobs. In the late 1960s, Lyon photographed inmates at six Texas maximum-security prisons and the leveling of 60 acres of lower Manhattan to make way for the World Trade Center. In the 1970s, Lyon photographed in Arizona, New Mexico and New York. In the ‘80s he worked in Haiti and spent time photographing his family. Examples from these projects and others will be on display at the gallery.
What sets Lyon apart from his peers is not only his unapologetic activism, but also the ability of his images to forge connections with the past, present and future. Writing for the New York Times Magazine critic Teju Cole pointed out, “Cotton Pickers, (an image of inmates picking cotton at a Texas prison plantation) is an activist picture…. It reaches back to images from the 19th century and before, and it stretches forward to the crouched and hooded prisoners of Guantánamo Bay.” Present Future demonstrates the capacity of Lyon’s images to have a conversation with work by other photographers, and conjure up references from slavery to modern-day xenophobia that speaks to his immediacy and importance.
June 11 – September 1, 2017