Danny Lyon is a photo-journalist, writer and filmmaker. His website is bleakbeauty.com

Among his many books are  The Bikeriders, Conversations with the Dead, and Knave of Hearts. His latest non-fiction book is Like A Thief’s Dream, PowerHouse Books. Daniel Joseph Lyon was born in Brooklyn , New York on March 16, 1942. Roosevelt was President. World War Two was on going in Europe, Africa and Asia. Segregation was the law of the land in 13 southern states. Native Americans were not allowed to purchase alcohol in New Mexico. Most blacks could not or did not vote in the deep  south. Lyon attended NYC public schools in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, Queens, and in 1959 bought his first camera, an Exa SLR in Munich, Germany during a summer trip, then entered the University of Chicago, where he eventually majored in philosophy and ancient history. In 1963 he became  The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) first photographer . Danny Lyon’s photographs are in Museums and collections through out the world. His most recent one man show was at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Danny Lyon is represented by Gavin Brown Enterprises and the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, AZ.

16 Responses to “About”
  1. Gary Baigent says:

    hey Danny
    I’m a kiwi about the same age as you (well a year older) and bought your book Bikeriders not long after it appeared in New Zealand. Always liked it. People here likened my work to yours (my book Unseen City had come out a year before) – so I’ve always thought we had something in common. In those days I was riding Nortons, few Harleys here then (actually we always thought they were crappy bikes, wouldn’t corner, gutless etc). anyway that was a long time ago and the bikes long sold. Actually I like sailing and design multihulls and planing dinghies now – sort of water motorcycles. Sorry to rabbit on – just saying hello.

  2. Hasan Benler says:

    Mr. Lyon:

    A 1965 photograph of yours was featured in the March 2008 issue of Smithsonian magazine in an article ( no longer on their website ) titled ” Two For The Rogues ” that almost romantically portrayed two motorcylists as colorful “renegade”,”Bohemian” bikers. One of them seems to be a classic sociopathic criminal who in 1975 tortured and murdered an informer. Considering your past identification with this category of society and the book “Bikeriders” I was wondering whether you would care to comment on your present views of these aspects of some members of the “outlaw” biker culture?

  3. dektol says:

    The picture was made ten years before Cowboy was convicted of murder and sentenced to Death. I was pretty sharp back then but had not yet figured out how to tell the future. All the words you use are from an article written by someone else about the picture. They are not mine.
    I kind of like “classic sociopathic criminal”, your choice of words. Would Dick Cheney be in that group? How about Condi and GW?
    I think Cowboy was discharged after twenty years and is now free, and at age 66 pretty harmless. We are the only country I know of that puts aways murderers and never lets them out. New Zealand, with a population of about one hundreth of ours, has a better sense of justice, and much more effective sense of justice.

  4. Hasan Benler says:

    I did not mean to imply that you also authored the article. My query was to find out if you’ve had a change of viewpoint about the admirability of “outlaw” biker culture you know so well given the many unsavory actions associated with them. The death penalty, putting away murderers and never letting them out and New Zealand justice notwithstanding, this “Cowboy” fella seems to be retired and tooling around on his bike around his Salt Lake City home—somewhat akin to OJ playing golf?

  5. dektol says:

    Cowboy did twenty years, on Death Row, for his crime. Then he was released. If at 66 he can ride a motorcycle, that is also good. What is the problem here? Should he have been drawn and quartered? The rack? How about shooting him in the heart?
    I’m not a judge, but twenty years is about right for murder. Of course I have changed, as I’m sure Cowboy has, everyone changes over time.
    The Bikeriders I covered as a journalist in 1966 did not murder anyone. If they had believe me, I would have written about it.

  6. Hasan Benler says:

    The problem with “Cowboy” is his total lack of remorse; a disturbing characteristic of sociopathy. But my query really was about your current viewpoint which you’ve answered. Thank you.

  7. brandon says:

    i saw your lecture at the high museum in atlanta.
    just wanted to say i really enjoyed it as photo student.

  8. Rita Knight says:

    Hi I was one of the Uptown kids you took pictures of. I had years ago bought one of your books that had some of us in it. Due
    to a fire this book was lost. I forgot the name and hope you could sned me the name because I so want another one. It was the book that had the naked tatoo
    prisoners in it. Have you published anymore about Uptown ?
    You had a scooter and I had a Honda 50 . Big time bikers
    Your work is wonderful then and now

  9. Nancy Andrews says:

    Blessings and greetings to dektol and readers,
    My brother has a 1968 first printing, hardback/dj of “The Bikeriders,” Macmillian company.
    The book is in fine condition with no writing, tears of soiling to the text. FOR HUGH EDWARDS is printed on the copyright page.
    He is loathe to sell it, but a serious illness has forced him to sell many of his prized possessions. (Due to a previous bad experience, eBAy is not an option.)
    Please pass this information and my email address along to any interested collectors of your fine, early books of photography.
    All Best,
    Nancy Andrews

    P.S. YES WE DID!

  10. Lionel Pires says:

    Hey Danny,
    Just got through reading Like a Thief’s Dream. I am one of only two people who is in touch with Edward Little. We have been writting, speaking on the
    phone and I’ve been visiting since 1989. Smiley and Dinker had a huge effect on his life. As you probably know he was sentenced to life WOP at the
    age of 15 and sent to tucker max. We’re Smiley and Dinker took him in.
    I think his is the most amazing story of all. If Smiley and Dinker did one good thing in life, it was to raise a young boy to be a man anyone could be
    proud of. Thanks for the history.

  11. Pete says:

    Hello Danny

    I would like to feature your work on my blog. You pioneered documentary activity that looked at prisoners and social transgressors. Now it can be perversely chic to look at gangs and it can be impossible get access to some prisons. Your thoughts on this would be interesting.

    Respectfully, Pete

  12. sally norvell says:

    Dear Danny,
    I’ve just finished reading your excellent “Like a Thief’s Dream”. It was one of those books I couldn’t put down – I became totally caught up in Smiley & his movements. I think the reason is because you’ve so deftly humanized him, gotten inside his head (as much as anyone could). The way you present Smiley & his criminal partners is so interesting, because it more than detached journalism, and certainly not sensationalist. It is indeed, bleak but vivid with the pulse of life. You manage to present the circumstances of his crime without judgment, but also without glorifying. Here is a man, who really can murder, when and if the situation, in his mind, calls for it. And even tho it shakes him, he can justify it.

    I’ve been researching a story about a man on Texas’ Death Row, whose crime is in some ways similar to Smiley’s and about the same time period. I’ve found the complexities of telling a murder story to be many and varied, and I’ve discovered that in prison, even on Death Row in the belly of the beast (Texas), there are very few men who are the true definition of cold-blooded killers. In fact most of them have come to their situation in frighteningly familiar & ordinary choices that have led them into our own system of vengeance and brutality.

    I don’t pretend to know what the solution is to our incarceration addiction, nor what we must do to end the death penalty. But I do know that we cannot hope to become a global leader in human rights if we continue to treat our own citizens in this way. People like you, who can tell the stories of these men & women in compelling, humane, understandable ways is a very necessary part of the struggle, and I am so grateful to you for doing it.

    I think the reason you are so successful, especially with your photographs, is that your eye is so wide open, and you manage to capture that which is within every human being. And we are compelled to look and look again, because we do see something of ourselves, even in the lowest of the low.

    Thanks worlds for your brilliant work.

    -Sally Norvell

  13. petebrook says:

    Danny. Your scuttling of any argument Google has to appropriate your work was swift. The situation is beyond ludicrous that they can acquire books without authors’ consent. I have enjoyed, and benefited from, reading on Google books, but I am disturbed if Google trampled on other author’s rights in order for me and others to read their works.

    I reposted your statement. I hope we can fight Google’s theft.


  14. Brett Fogarty says:

    There’s something here about you that I got published.


  15. Sebastian says:

    Hello Danny,

    thank you.

    Kindest Regards,

  16. Shannon E says:


    I dig your work a ton and have for a while now. It came to my attention that a very large art show with mass coverage has someone who, in fact stole one of your images from “the bike riders” claiming it as his own. Since this art show opened tonight, I do hope that one of the smart well educated gallery workers there get a tap on the shoulder from someone who knows about photography viewing the show a bit peeved off that it’s in there without your credit.

    Sorry about the ramblings, I was a bit pissed off when I looked at the show and saw this “original” work by the artist:


    Hope you get the credit you deserve.. Have a good evening and keep putting out great photos.
    Best regards,