Danny Lyon is a photographer, writer, and filmmaker. His books include The Bikeriders, Conversations with the Dead, and, most recently, Burn Zone. His films, including one of John Lewis and Julian Bond, can be found on Vimeo. He is represented by Gavin Brown Enterprise and keeps a website, bleakbeauty.com.
I had done it. Deep in the South I had reached one of the towns central to an uprising that would sweep away legal segregation, bring the vote to black people in the thirteen states that had made up the Confederacy, and overthrow the system of racial oppression called Jim Crow that had been re-imposed in those states after the Civil War. Over my shoulder was a Nikon F reflex. “You got a camera,” James Forman—then SNCC’s executive secretary—said to me when we met at the Freedom House. “Go into the courthouse. They got a big water cooler for whites and a little bitty bowel for negroes. Go take a picture of that.”
By the spring of 1962, when I met him, Hugh Edwards had been responsible for more than twenty exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, including a selection by Edward Weston and a survey of Alexander Gardner’s Civil War pictures. On a visit to the museum after we had met, he said to me, “Go downstairs and see that show.” It was Robert Frank’s first solo exhibit.