danny lyon | brooklyn, summer 1974

How wonderful are these photos of Brooklyn in the summer of 1974, from photographer Danny Lyon? For the unacquainted, as always: Lyon, along somewhat more widely acclaimed contemporaries Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Frank, and Larry Clark, was among the photojournalists known for their focus on imperfect reality and on the photographers’ involvement with their subjects’ lives, rather than striving for well-composed, technically perfect images from a physical and emotional distance.  

Lyon’s deliberate choice to embrace imperfections — most of these photos are ill-exposed, crooked, blurred, or interrupted by a too-close body or object — belies his empathetic intent: the heat and energy and constant buzz of the city comes through here in ways that “better” photographs don’t permit.  The images here call to mind Helen Levitt, Walker Evans, and a grittier, less “fashionable” version of Bruce Davidson’s Brooklyn Gang.  Also: restraining myself from gushing again about the warmth and grain and depth of fields of old film photography but that horse has been dead for ages so I’m only going to passive aggressively mention it in passing (o see what i did thar?)

Plenty more of these after the jump, but also worth noting are Lyon’s images of Chicago motorcycle gangs in The Bikeriders, which put LIFE magazine’s documentation of motorcycle gangs sorely to shame.