Danny Lyon: Message to the Future

Solo en Inglès

Listen to commentary from scholars Elisabeth Sussman, Todd Gitlin, Julian Cox, and artist Danny Lyon on selected works in the exhibition Danny Lyon: Message to the Future.

Elisabeth Sussman: Who is Danny Lyon? Danny Lyon is somebody who's worked as a photographer ever since he was an undergraduate, and he's now in his 70s. 

Narrator: Take a look at the board on the entry wall, which Lyon has covered in photos, letters, and film negatives.  It gives a feeling for how deep and wide-ranging his interests have been. Elisabeth Sussman is a curator at the Whitney, and installed this exhibition.

Elisabeth Sussman: He's produced several interesting dedicated activist bodies of work. He is always identified with the realities of what human beings are living for. He documents them with more than his camera. He tape records them. He writes about them. He puts books out about them. Starting with the '70s he filmed them. So this is real involvement. This is not point and shoot walk away photography. 

Narrator: We’ll begin our tour by going through the entrance to the left of the title wall. Go on in, and take a look around. Lyon began taking these photographs of the Civil Rights movement in 1962, while he was still an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. Soon after his arrival in the South, he began working as the official photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—or SNCC—a group that led the fight for racial equality in the South.  

Elisabeth Sussman: What you see here is really the beginning of Danny Lyon. What makes him great as a photographer is to be at the moment when something is going on to have the unique ability to frame a beautiful, balanced composition that's also very dynamic and unfolding. And to concentrate on these people. The people are often what draws him into a situation. That is consistent all the way through all his bodies of work.

Danny Lyon (b. 1942), Darkroom Wall from Danny Lyon’s Studio, Ulster County, New York, 1985-2005. Gelatin silver prints, 35mm negatives, printed notecards, and letters. Collection of the Artist. © Danny Lyon