"Some may know the US photographer Danny Lyon for late-1960s shots of outlaw motorcycle gangs. Others may be familiar with his photograph of Bernie Sanders as a young protester at a 1962 Chicago University sit-in, which surfaced during this presidential campaign, or Lyon’s record of the marches staged by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which remain some of the most valuable visual representations of the civil rights movement.
This one-time Magnum Photos member has photographed John Lennon, Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, and documented the industrialization of peasant life in China and the lives of homeless children in Bogotá. A travelling retrospective of his work, Message to the Future, just opened at San Francisco’s de Young museum after a successful run at the Whitney earlier this year.
Other, less confrontational septuagenarians might settle for promoting a few classic images in their later years. Not only does Lyon reject this (“There is a show now of my work in a London gallery,” he says. “I have nothing to do with it and no interest in publicizing it”), but he’s applying his type of 60s-style protest tactics to what he regards as today’s most pressing issue: climate change.
Lyon’s new photobook, Burn Zone (available on his site as a free PDF and as a $25 printed book) is, in part, a record of the ecological collapse he has witnessed as an on/off resident within the New Mexico stretch of the Rio Grande valley. Lyon, a New Yorker, arrived in the region back in 1970, “with some marijuana in my pocket and $5,000 from a Guggenheim Fellowship, enough to purchase two and a half acres of irrigated valley land”, as he puts it in Burn Zone.
Living off the grid, the photographer built his own house and grew his own food, until his marriage collapsed in the late 1970s. Heading back east for the next three decades, the photographer has returned to New Mexico in recent years, to find river levels have dropped, the temperature has risen and droughts and wildfires afflict his smallholding."