Danny Lyon was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied history at the University of Chicago, earning his B.A. in 1963. During his time at school, Lyon joined the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, working as a photographer documenting the struggles of the civil rights movement. It was during this time that Lyon was able to unite two of his passions, photography and social change.
After graduation from the University of Chicago, Lyon travelled throughout the United States, photographing the lives and activities of biker gangs. Lyon became a full member of the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club, participating in the lifestyle of those he was documenting. Because Lyon so immerses himself in the lifestyles of his subjects, he is considered a photographer of New Journalism school—a school of writing and journalism that focused on subjectivity over objectivity, and intensive reportage in place of a dispassionate lens.
Lyon’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and the Philadelphia Art Museum. His work is held in the collections of the American Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the International Center for Photography, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Whitney Museum, New York; among others. Lyon also works in film, and has received a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and several NEA grants for his work in that medium.