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Danny Lyon's Civil Rights Photographs Capture A Protesting People

The iconic photographer documented a movement and democracy in action.
Danny Lyon The March on Washington, August, 28, 1963 Modern print 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm).  All images courtesy of Danny Lyon and  Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome

In the summer of 1962, Congressman John Lewis was a 22-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The white American photographer Danny Lyon hitched a ride to Cairo, Illinois to hear Lewis address a demonstration about the disgraces of Jim Crow law. Lewis, dressed in dark dress pants and a white cotton dress shirt, dropped to a knee and bowed his head. The 20 year-old Lyon captured the scene of Lewis flanked by a woman and a child in deep prayer in a black and white photograph. A year later, Lyon joined SNCC as their first staff photographer, traveling through the South documenting sit-ins, demonstrations for voting rights, white violence, black spiritual resistance, and creating agitprop from his pictures.


In a new exhibition titled Danny Lyon at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the artist is presenting pictures from his early 60s series, The Southern Civil Rights Movement. The images and stories behind them tell of how young black and white students banded together, despite their youth and racial differences, to challenge the status quo to combat racism. The mix of posters and photographs in the exhibition, document the way freedom was won by a gradual expression of non-violent protests despite the frequent use of violence by local police patrols and white vigilantees across the South.

Danny Lyon Ole Miss 1962, Printed 1963 Vintage gelatin silver print 7 x 11 inches (DL 028)

Lyon’s earliest image is Eddie Brown is arrested in Albany, Georgia 1962, of the protestor being carried off to jail by two white cops. In Alabama Highway Patrol, Outside the Bombed 16th Street Baptist Church, September 12, 1963, four patrolmen stand on the street in the aftermath of the basement bombing of the Birmingham Church that killed four little girls. And there’s the Civil Rights photographer's pictures that show Taylor Washington being dragged by the neck from a lunch counter in Atlanta followed by a poster of a portrait of a patrol officer that asks: “Is He Protecting You?”

Danny Lyon Now 1964 Poster 22 x 14 inches (55.9 x 35.6 cm) (DL 047)Danny Lyon Installation View Gavin Brown’s enterprise 291 Grand St New York January 18 - February 5, 2017Danny Lyon Arrest of Taylor Washington, Atlanta 1963, Printed 1967 Vintage gelatin silver print 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm) (DL 025)

Danny Lyon continues through February 5 at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Click here for more information.


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