Nathan Lyons (1930-2016)

Almost the first proper book of photographs I bought when the medium seriously began to catch hold of me was by Nathan Lyons. I’m not sure whether it or Charles Harbutt‘s ‘Travelog‘, both published by The MIT Press came first on my bookshelves. Neither was the kind of book you would find in British bookshops, but Coo Press in London’s Doughty St, home of Colin Osman’s Creative Camera also had a book shop and a mail order service. These first two volumes I almost certainly bought by mail, but in the following years I spent several happy afternoons browsing in the bookshop – where photographers were always made welcome, even those like me who had little to spend.

Notations in Passing – Visualized by Nathan Lyons‘, in the words on hte back of the book: “Snapshots – a series of images – cool – haunting – a modern iconography – a compendium of images by one of the most significant teachers of visual arts – a careful exploration in perception – a series with its own continuity and time relationships – commonplace justapositions – sequences – notations in passing – 96 photographs by Nathan Lyons...” was certainly an eye-opener for me and I think for many ohters.

It’s a book that I can see traces of in much of my own rather different photographic work over the next few years, opening up new possibilities and seeing new subjects. Ideas of framing that still inform my work, moving away from the stultification of the rule of thirds and other nostrums. Using images within images, reflections text and more.

Lyons was one of the great teachers of our medium, but one I only knew in print, and he appears to be relatively little known here in the UK. You can see some of his work on the Bruce Silverstein Gallery site, and read many tributes to him across the web:

Selected Obituaries

In Memoriam: Nathan Lyons, 1930–2016 Eastman Museum;

Tribute to Nathan Lyons, 1930-2016 in’Eye of Photography’ by Bruno Chalifour;

Nathan Lyons, Influential Photographer and Advocate of the Art, Dies at 86 New York TImes;

Nathan Lyons, Photographer, Educator and Visual Studies Workshop Founder PDN.

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