A portrait of a disappearing China: Danny Lyon's photo journal: Deep Sea Diver

Travelling across northern China with a translator named Lolly Pop and a vintage Leica, Danny Lyon's photographs provide a unique perspective
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Danny Lyon, The Opera at Dingxiang

1 / 18 Danny Lyon, The Opera at Dingxiang

Danny Lyon, Map Detail Province of Ping Yao, Ping Yao

2 / 18 Danny Lyon, Map Detail Province of Ping Yao, Ping Yao

Danny Lyon, Terraced Farm Land with Power Plant

3 / 18 Danny Lyon, Terraced Farm Land with Power Plant

Danny Lyon, Left - Girl at the Circus, Right - Inside the Circus

4 / 18 Danny Lyon, Left - Girl at the Circus, Right - Inside the Circus

Danny Lyon, A Moving Violation, Ping Yao

5 / 18 Danny Lyon, A Moving Violation, Ping Yao

Danny Lyon, Coal Truck Drivers, Jiexiu

6 / 18 Danny Lyon, Coal Truck Drivers, Jiexiu

Danny Lyon, The Road to the Distillery, Jiexiu

7 / 18 Danny Lyon, The Road to the Distillery, Jiexiu

Danny Lyon, Kite -Fenhe Park, Taiyuan with Branch of Yellow River

8 / 18 Danny Lyon, Kite -Fenhe Park, Taiyuan with Branch of Yellow River

Danny Lyon, Three Mechanics, Taiyuan

9 / 18 Danny Lyon, Three Mechanics, Taiyuan

Danny Lyon, Lolly Above the Coal Miners Village, Datong

10 / 18 Danny Lyon, Lolly Above the Coal Miners Village, Datong

11 / 18

Danny Lyon, Card Game, Restaurant in Xinrong

12 / 18 Danny Lyon, Card Game, Restaurant in Xinrong

Danny Lyon, Changzhi

13 / 18 Danny Lyon, Changzhi

Danny Lyon, Dawn, Outside the Walls of Ping Yao

14 / 18 Danny Lyon, Dawn, Outside the Walls of Ping Yao

Danny Lyon, Antique Shop, Ping Yao

15 / 18 Danny Lyon, Antique Shop, Ping Yao

Danny Lyon, Migrant Miner from Sichuan with his son

16 / 18 Danny Lyon, Migrant Miner from Sichuan with his son

Danny Lyon, Mechanic in Truck, Huairen

17 / 18 Danny Lyon, Mechanic in Truck, Huairen

Danny Lyon, Danny with Lolly, Shanxi Province

18 / 18 Danny Lyon, Danny with Lolly, Shanxi Province


With his vintage Leica and a young translator named Lolly Pop, American photographer Danny Lyon travelled across Shanxi Province in Northeast China six times between 2005 and 2009. The result of Lyon’s unfailing enthusiasm is Deep Sea Diver, an extraordinary travel journal and portrait of China seldom seen by foreigners.

Long considered one of the most original and influential documentary photographers throughout the second half of the 20th century, Lyon helped to pioneer a kind of photographic 'New Journalism'. Rebelling against magazine-style photo-stories, Lyon immersed himself in the lives of his subjects, local banter and customs.

Shanxi was once the Middle Kingdom and its border to the north with Inner Mongolia is marked by the Great Wall and Fire Towers. Lyon’s China is a portrait of what is gone, not just in China but in all of the advanced world. Accompanied by Lyon's handwritten annotations and commentary, his images hark back to simpler times and look like they could have been made in the 1940s and 1950s: mechanics are covered with grease and flat tyre repair shops line the highways; people ride bicycles, play cards in their pyjamas and railroad workers toil in gangs with picks, while a foreman blows a whistle. 

We see almost nothing of this century’s technological advances in Lyon's pictures; the relationships between people are close and affectionate. Lyon's images pay homage to his own childhood in 1950s America, and a China that is quickly vanishing. The result is a uniquely personal and human perspective.


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