Deep Sea Diver.
An American Photographer's Journey THrough Shanxi, China.
Photographs by Danny Lyon.
Phaidon, London, 2011. 136 pp., 85 black & white illustrations, 11x13".
With his vintage Leica and accompanied by a young translator named Lolly Pop, American photographer Danny Lyon traveled across Shanxi Province in northeast China six times between 2005 and 2009. The result of Lyon’s unfailing enthusiasm for immersing himself in local banter and customs is an extraordinary portrait of China and the Chinese, one seldom seen by foreigners. Lyon’s unparalleled photographic findings and discoveries are presented in this limited edition photobook alongside his handwritten annotations and commentary, as well as his ever-inquisitive and non-judgmental prose.
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. The 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 pajamas and railroad workers work in gangs with picks, while a foreman blows a whistle. We see almost nothing of this century’s technological advances in Lyon’s pictures and the relationships between people are close and affectionate. An homage to Lyon’s own childhood in 1950s America and a China that is quickly vanishing, this portrayal reveals a uniquely personal and human perspective. Eighty-five black and white photographs are accompanied by the photographer’s own writings, handwritten notes and travel ephemera, including business cards, scrap papers, taxi receipts and tickets.
A travel journal and artist’s book in one, this is a must for anyone with an interest in the curiosities of foreign discovery, photography and the myriad elements that go into welding the two together for reflection and reminiscences.