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Danny Lyon collection

Identifier: AG 161

Scope and Contents

The Danny Lyon collection (1969-1985) consists of one series, Films by Danny Lyon, containing six 16mm films by Danny Lyon and one empty reel, all housed in film reel canisters. These films were created during the 1970s and 1980s when Lyon made a series of non-fiction films whose subjects include marginalized groups and individuals existing on the fringes of society. These films were recently digitized and are available to watch through Lyon’s website.


  • 1969-1985


Language of Materials

Material in English Spanish

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Daniel Joseph Lyon was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 16, 1942, and worked as a photojournalist, filmmaker, and writer; he is best known for his films and essays focusing on human rights. Lyon called his work as a photographer “the existential struggle to be free.” He attended NYC public schools in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, Queens. Lyon bought his first camera in 1959, an Exa SLR, in Munich, Germany during a summer trip with his family. He went to the University of Chicago and majored in philosophy and ancient history, graduating with his BA in 1963. While at the University of Chicago he worked as the first staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and first published the photographs of the SNCC the same year as his graduation in 1963. His photos were featured in a documentary book about the Civil Rights Movement in the south called The Movement.

From 1963 to 1967, Lyon was a member of and documented the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club. Photographs and interviews with the club members were published in the book The Bikeriders in 1968. Beginning in 1967 he worked as a freelance photographer. The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, published by Macmillan Publishers in 1969, follows the demolition of Lower Manhattan in 1967 to make way for the Twin Towers and other new infrastructure. The photographs chronicled the streets, buildings, and former residents through the process of demolition. His next book published by Henry Holt and Co. in 1971 was Conversation with the Dead. The Texas Department of Corrections cooperated with Lyon as he photographed in six different maximum security prisons from 1967-8. He became friends with many of the prisoners and included their letters, records, and some artwork done by the inmates in the book.

Danny Lyon is associated with the New Journalism style; he would fully immerse himself in the situations he documented. Lyon received many awards in his lifetime including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969 and 1978. Some of Lyon's films and videos include Los Niños Abandonados, Born to Film, Willie, and Murderers. He published the non-fiction book Like A Thief's Dream in 2007.

His website is


1.5 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Films by Danny Lyon, 16mm, 1969-1985, 7 reels

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Danny Lyon, 1995.


  • Etherton Gallery. Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders. 2012.
  • Kennedy, Randy. Stubbornly Practicing His Principles of Photography. The New York Times. April 24, 2009.

Processing Information

Finding aid was updated by Tai Huesgen in 2020.

Danny Lyon collection 1969-1985
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States