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Chicago

A work made of gelatin silver prints (15), montage.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver prints (15), montage.

Date:

1965; printed and assembled 1990

Artist:

Danny Lyon
American, born 1942

About this artwork

In the summer of 1965, having graduated two years earlier from the University of Chicago, Danny Lyon traveled on his Triumph motorcycle from his home in Hyde Park to Chicago’s tough Uptown neighborhood. The area had acquired the nickname Hillbilly Heaven for its large number of immigrants from central Appalachia. Over a period of several months, Lyon photographed residents of Uptown’s Clifton Avenue using a Rolleiflex camera borrowed from his close friend and mentor Hugh Edwards, then a photography curator at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Lyon gained the trust of several families, resulting in images that depict struggles but also immense community pride: “paradise inside a square,” as the photographer said, referencing the camera’s square format. In 1966 Lyon wrote of the project, “The pictures are not made to disturb people’s consciences but rather to disturb their consciousness. The pictures do not ask you to ‘help’ these people, but something much more difficult; to be briefly and intensely aware of their existence, an existence as real and significant as your own.”

Later in his career, Lyon revisited his earlier negatives to create what he calls montages, alluding to the cinematic use of montage as an editing technique. In 1965 he initially got his subjects’ attention with his Triumph motorcycle, seen in the central self-portrait. The contact prints surrounding this image are examples of the prints Lyon gave on return visits to the individuals he had photographed. In 2008 Lyon received a letter from one subject who had remained in contact with “the old gang.” “There are only two groups,” she wrote, “those that made it out and did well and those that were so addicted and are still over there… . It was a sad era in America, but some of us made it out.”

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Photography and Media

Artist

Danny Lyon

Title

Chicago

Origin

United States

Date

Made 1965

Medium

Gelatin silver prints (15), montage

Dimensions

31.4 × 27.9 cm (overall, image); 42.9 × 42.9 × 3.2 cm (16 7/8 × 16 7/8 × 1 1/4 in., frame)

Credit Line

Gift of the artist

Reference Number

2018.176

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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