Danny Lyon, The Opera at Dingxiang
 


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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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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Danny Lyon, Deep Sea Diver, Phaidon Press