Danny Lyon’s The Bikeriders

  • Danny Lyon-The Bikeriders-Aperture-Chronicle books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-3

    Danny Lyon’s The Bikeriders photography project/book seems to be pretty much a textbook example of how to create a respectful portrait of a closely knit subculture; one viewed by Mr Lyon as a “participant observer” (to quote Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in their The Photobook series) – Danny Lyon was a member of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcyle Club that he photographed but also there is a sense of him being one step removed and of offering an objective viewpoint or recording.

    Danny Lyon-The Bikeriders-Aperture-Chronicle books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2Danny Lyon-The Bikeriders-Aperture-Chronicle books-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-4In a way they remind me of Karlheinz Weinberger’s 1950s photographs of Swiss rock’n’roll/biker rebels (see Day #56/365a).

    Those in Weinberger’s photographs have been said to have created their own version of rock’n’roll that made you think they had only ever experienced the original source via an out of tune radio; looking at Danny Lyon’s photographs, I can imagine them having tumbled back in time to become that source.

    Danny Lyon-The Bikeriders-Aperture-Chronicle books-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityThe Bikeriders photographs are one of those times when the past that has been captured is almost too picture perfect; I don’t mean that in any negative way – this is captured as seen, documentary photography but there’s just such a natural, striking stylishness to them and their subjects/subject matter.

    It is a collection of photographs that you see the word seminal applied to and in this case it is thoroughly justified.

    Writing about them just makes me want to step away and go and dig out my copy of the book again.

    You can view a fair few photographs from The Bikeriders at Magnum Photos here.

    An original copy of the book will cost a fair pence, pounds and dollars nowadays…. it was republished by Chronicle Books, although that’s now out of print also…

    …but it has been republished relatively recently by American fine art photography group Aperture. More details on that edition here.


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