Le Cinéma Club continues our spotlight on influential photographer Danny Lyon, whose mosaic documentaries have revealed the corners of American counterculture through lighthearted pit stops. Media Man, which he co-directed alongside his partner Nancy Weiss Lyon, tours the under-appreciated alcoves of the nation and the many people who make up its society.
Prefacing that their film will depict the “good America,” the Lyons document muscle car enthusiasts, Deadheads, deli workers, tattoo aficionados, and city skaters, among an ever-expanding rolodex of memorable faces and characters. Much like this photography, Lyon seizes history in a series of frames and pushes against the “enormous damage to our civilization” the media has brought on. Lyon’s ode to the everyman undermines the conventions of reportage; instead, producing a true portrait of the people invested in keeping up spirited customs across the country.
“I think that treating people as people is what creates empathy, not a voiceover telling you what you are watching and that you should care about somebody and why. Within every human heart, even in the worst among us, there is something that cares about each other and that’s what I try to appeal to.” DANNY LYON
Shot over the course of five years, the Lyons’ long parade turns casual encounters with strangers—ranging from New Mexico to the Canadian Yukon—into colorful vignettes. Pieced together, they form a scrapbook full of charming and comedic moments where Lyon’s friendly reporting uncovers the candescent hearts of passionate communities carrying out rituals they love, no matter how absurd. As Lyon films folks play real-life bumper cars and others refurbish old automobiles with religiosity, he locates smiles, capturing them when they beam most, right before they vanish.
Landmark artist Danny Lyon rose to prominence as the photographer behind The Bikeriders, a visual account of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club during the late ‘60s. He attended the University of Chicago, where he studied history and philosophy, befriended United States Senator Bernie Sanders, and eventually met his wife Nancy Weiss. Together, the couple set out to record America with photos, films and books, eventually founding Bleak Beauty to catalog their unique archive. Both artists continue carrying out their practices; Lyon, compiling his work into new compendiums, and Weiss, joyfully quilting alongside the United Memorial Methodist Church Quilters of Modena, New York.
In August, we’re taking a more relaxed pace; our films will screen for two weeks.
Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Special thanks to Danny Lyon and Cody Edison for making this screening possible.