Photography documents the lifestyle of Chicago motorcycle club

by April Helms special products editor Published:

Area residents wanting a glimpse of what it was like being with a motorcycle club in the 1960s can see "Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders" through June 21 in the Akron Art Museum's Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery.

Lyon is "a self-trained photographer" who started taking photographs while in school, said Arnold Tunstall, collections manager.

"Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders" features 35 of the museum's collection of 50 photographs of members of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club taken more than 45 years ago.

Born in 1942, Lyon grew up in Queens, N.Y. and in 1963 earned his BA from the University of Chicago. A self-taught photographer and filmmaker, Lyon demonstrated an interest in photographing his peers rather than strangers early in his career. He became a leading figure in the emerging style called New Journalism, in which the artist immerses himself with his subjects as an active participant, not an objective observer. For "The Bikeriders" he became a member of the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club and developed a friendship and concern for his fellow members.

"He wanted to make a new kind of journalism," Tunstall said.

The series shows the members of the Chicago Outlaws not only riding their bikes across the country, but in a variety of settings. Members can be seen alongside motorcycle racers during rallies, relaxing between rides and in their everyday lives.

"He was trying to combat the media view of youth and motorcyclists," Tunstall said. "These were just guys who liked to ride bikes and liked to race. They are normal, everyday people who happened to like motorcycles."

Lyon's series of photographs from his years with the Chicago Outlaws resulted in a groundbreaking book published in 1968, Tunstall said. At the time of its initial publication, photo-journalistic books that tell a story through images and text from the subject did not really exist.

"The book includes the photos and transcripts from his interviews from the members," Tunstall said. "He did not try to filter them, but he published the interviews as is."

Finding a copy of the book is very difficult because it is currently out of print, and existing copies have been known to sell for hundreds of dollars, Tunstall said.

Lyon has gone on to become an influential and transformative figure in the field of documentary photography, Tunstall said. He has received the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship twice, first in 1969 for photography and again in 1979 for film making. He continues to immerse himself and his camera in the various subcultures that he documents. One project included interviews of Texas prisoners, "Conversations with the Dead." In 2011 he released a book titled Deep Sea Diver and has documented the recent Occupy movement and demonstrations.

"His whole career has been championing people he thought were given a bad rap, who have been marginalized or silenced in a way," Tunstall said.

For more information on Danny Lyon visit his website at www.BleakBeauty.com.

Related Programming

In connection with the exhibit, the Akron Art Museum will screen "Easy Rider" on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. The movie stars Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.

In addition, the museum hopes to screen some of Lyon's films sometime in April, Tunstall said. Some of the museum's summer programming will also be tied to the exhibit, he added.

Information

The museum is at One S. High in downtown Akron. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and major holidays.

Adult general admission is $7, and students and seniors 65 and older are $5. Children 17 and under and museum members are free.

On the third Thursday of every month, individual admission to the collection is free. Special exhibitions may require paid admission.

For details, call 330-376-9185 or visit www.akronartmuseum.org online.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.