Publication

On video

 

LYON on TEDx & Latest project SOMOS BRASIL (22/11/2016)

Who are we? Marcus asks us to question how our identities are formed. Using Somos Brasil (We are Brazil), a multi media photography, sound and DNA project, he brings us images, stories and ancestral DNA to examine modern Brazilian identity. In turn he asks us to consider what drives us and what we can become.

LYON on LENS CULTURE by Jim Casper  (17/01/2015)

Marcus Lyon has been pursuing his interest in globalization for decades, using both words and pictures to express his vision of the surrounding world. His investigations have taken him across the globe and led him to explore the phenomenon of development through a wide-range of  subjects: the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the mass migrations of the 21st century and, most recently, the ways in which we spend our leisure time today. Lyon is a visionary photographer who is filled with great ideas and the drive to turn these ideas into reality. We hope you draw some inspiration from the video interview above and the wide range of works he has created during his career, many of which can be found right here, on LensCulture.

In the Press

The NATIONAL, UAE – Arts & Life  by Ben East  (30/03/2015)

Marcus Lyon is racing up the dramatic, sweeping Nelson staircase in London’s Somerset House, the spectacular neoclassical building on the banks of the Thames that is exhibiting some of his awe inspiring images. “Look at these stairs,” he exclaims, almost breathless. “Aren’t they just … fantastic?”

They are, but it’s very much Lyon’s style to find beauty and power in everything – including a 12-lane stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.

In 2010, Lyon was in the UAE undertaking some pro-bono charity work. His hotel was right beside the highway, so he accessed its roof to lean over the 43-storey building, and take shots of the street scene below.

“I don’t suffer from vertigo, thankfully.” he says. “But when you’re squinting through a lens for hours taking images, you do get a bit dizzy.”

The result, three months of hard work later, was Exodus II – Dubai. It’s a stunning composition, with cars and humanity seeming like distant bricks on a monstrous yet aesthetically pleasing superhighway.

Dubai residents will immediately see one thing, however: the 12-lane highway has seamlessly metamorphosed into a road that has 36 lanes going each way. This is the motif running through all of Lyon’s work in the Exodus and Timeout series on display at Somerset House. He manipulates and adds to an overhead image, exaggerating its scope to layer added meaning – all the while maintaining a semblance of believability.

“For me, bringing together multiple images is a more accurate view of what impact we have on the world than a single one,” says Lyon. “It means I can explore a more nuanced truth about the way we behave and act and what we do en masse in the 21st century – there’s 750 cars on Exodus II, which represents the 750,000 miles I will drive as an average car owner. This is the bigger picture.”

And that’s the real success of the Exodus and Timeout series – they marry artistic prowess with ideas about migration, identity and globalization. Exodus IV – Hong Kong, for example, is a richly beautiful and sparklingly colourful image that makes a stained-glass window out of hundreds of shipping containers – a cathedral of consumerism. And while Exodus II also works as a brilliant piece of art it also comments on the use of the planet’s resources, there’s a more personal meaning, too.

“I was also trying to think about that sense of identity we get when we own a car,” he says. “So if you drive a Mercedes, for example, I feel differently about you than if you drive a Skoda. These modern products change the sense we have of ourselves. So if you look at that image, the positions of the cars mirror the stripes of light you get in a DNA pattern. Exodus II is as much about identity as it is about car use.”

What’s refreshing about Lyon’s work is that it never overwhelms with meanings and messages, but merely asks that we draw our own conclusions and start conversations about what we’ve done to the planet and where we are at in the 21st century.

GUARDIAN – My Best Shot by Karin Andreasson  (19/02/2015)

I was in Dubai in 2010, doing a speech for a charity, when I discovered the amazing Sheikh Zayed Road. It has 12 lanes, tall buildings and skyscrapers on either side, and stretches right through the middle of the city. I booked a hotel next to it so that I could get up on to the roof. I was probably up there for about an hour and a half, hanging over, shooting straight down. You get a bit dizzy doing that.

The photograph started out as a little sketch in a book, though, just some lines, dots and ideas. Initially, I wanted to do something more music-based, but it morphed into a representation of my petrol-using life. It’s a composite of about 1,000 photos, and it took three months to make. I have a whole team of people who work with me to create an image like this, although I’m in charge of the idea. There are 750 vehicles in the end result, and they represent the 750,000 miles that I and the average car-owner will drive in a  lifetime.

Part of the thinking behind the work is that people are too visually literate and the world too fabulously complicated for me to say what I want in a single shot. So I bring multiple images together to create a greater truth. I think an image taken at 125th of a second is kind of a lie: it’s a moment captured in time, but then it disappears. With multiple images, I can go deeper, be subversive. So when people see this mega road I’ve created, they instantly ask questions. Is that really the world we live in? Is this image real or not? Where do I fit in to all of this?

Although I cut my teeth on large-format photography, I now use digital cameras and computer manipulation. But I think it’s essential to make sure the perspective is still correct and the image works from one point of view. So, at the top of this picture, I made sure that you see slightly more of the sides of the buses than you do at the bottom, where you would be looking straight down on them.

In the modern world, photography is instantly disposable. What I think is fascinating about images made this way is that they are really gluey. You get mesmerised by them. Your eyes are drawn to the whole composition, yet they can’t quite settle anywhere. As a final touch on all my creations, I insert a little Marcus. In this one, I’m in the top left-hand corner riding a bicycle.

CV

Born: Exeter, 1965.

Studied: Political science at Leeds university

Influences: Norman Borlaug, Ray Metzker, Edward R Tufte, Gil Scott-Heron

High point: “Today.”

Low point: “None. I’m annoyingly ebullient and cheerful.”

Top tip: “Have ideas, work hard and reinvent.”

Exhibition: Timeout and Exodus are in a pop-up show at Somerset House, London WC2, until 22 April. To arrange a viewing, call 020 7735 9933.

TELEGRAPH  – Migrations, megacities and mankind on the move by Cam  (10/02/2015)

With his large scale works – Exodus and Timeout – photographic artist Marcus Lyon explores themes of consumption and migration in an ever-shrinking world.

Lyon has travelled the world, from Los Angeles to London via Hong Kong and beyond, to create limited edition images of mass transit systems, transport hubs and huge urban conurbations – claustrophobic vistas which seem to go on and on. Strangely formal yet abstract these aerial images are at once fantasy and reality.

His technique is simply but painstaking. Lyon splices together hundreds of images from an existing scene (usually shot from above) to create an agglomeration which mirrors global themes of rampant consumption, massive urban sprawl and the huge gulf between rich and poor. If these chaotic scenes seem too large to be true it’s because they are.

“Emotionally and environmentally these mass ideas, actions, movements of people, production processes … are so huge that no single image can define their influence,” says Lyon. “So I have endeavoured to create new visual languages within which I can communicate a deeper truth.”

The work is speculative. How will the world look in 10, 20 years time? Perhaps Lyon has shown us.

PHAIDON  Marcus Lyon’s photos from the future by Alex Rayner (02/02/15)

The British image maker explains how his landscapes capture our globalised world at its most extreme.

When I was born, in 1965, there were a billion people living in the urban environment,” says the British photographer Marcus Lyon. “Now there are closer to four billion, and by the time we get to 2030, there will be five billion. That’s one of the great migrations of our time.”

Lyon worked as a reportage photographer for the likes of Amnesty International in the developing world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, shooting images in the slums and ghettos of the rapidly growing cities of Latin America, Asia and Africa.

When, in 2008, the UN estimated that, for the first time, more than half of the world’s population was now living in urban areas, Lyon felt the urge to document this change. Yet he knew that no one image could accurately represent this reality. Instead, over recent years he has been creating a series of finely manipulated photomontages that capture our urban, mechanised, out-of-kilter world.

His BRICs artworks, created 2008-10, conjure up the dizzying megacities of Brazil, Russia, India and China; his Exodus images, made 2009 – 2014, exaggerate the shipping traffic, flight paths, road systems and freight yards that serve this urban expansion; while his newest works, Timeout, currently on show in the 1st floor of the West Wing of London’s Somerset House until 1 June, considers our mass pursuits – from gargantuan golf-course complexes to endless yacht marinas – of the globe’s new leisure class.

Stylistically, the pictures might bring to mind the Düsseldorf School of photography, yet Lyon, while deeply flattered by the comparison, tries to draw from more diverse influences. His images, although manipulated, often reference genuine current-affairs, such as the tin-shack communities built on the Cape Flats outside Cape Town, sometimes described as apartheid’s dumping ground; or the West Lamma Channel in the South China Sea, one of the world’s most congested shipping lanes.

“I research the images in depth, by reading a lot of books, and articles in The Economist,” says the photographer. “To be honest, I’d say [Nobel Prize winning plant geneticist] Norman Borlaug is more of an influence than Andreas Gursky.”

Lyon, who was nominated for the Prix Pictet in 2013 and 2014, and is short-listed for the 2015 Aesthetica Art Prize, says he drafts his ideas on paper, before shooting the constituent images, often from high vantage point or chartered helicopters with the doors removed: “Then over periods of up to three months my team and I create wire frames to then meticulously build the images,” he explains.

He hopes these tweaked versions of our interconnected world will inspire dynamic conversations about our role in globalisation, yet audience reaction varies enormously. “Some people see the aesthetic and a sense of progress and opportunity,” he says, “others see a nightmare image of our future, and others don’t question it at all and see a reality.” And, perhaps, in a few years’ time, they will be.

Find out more about Marcus here; you can also view his Timeout series at weekdays at 101, 1st floor West Wing, Somerset House in London until June.

WIRED.COM by Alyssa Coppleman (20/01/2015)

Images from Exodus and Timeout are on view at Somerset House in London through June 1st.

LYON VIDEO on LENS CULTURE by Jim Casper  (17/01/2015)

Marcus Lyon has been pursuing his interest in globalization for decades, using both words and pictures to express his vision of the surrounding world. His investigations have taken him across the globe and led him to explore the phenomenon of development through a wide-range of  subjects: the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the mass migrations of the 21st century and, most recently, the ways in which we spend our leisure time today. Lyon is a visionary photographer who is filled with great ideas and the drive to turn these ideas into reality. We hope you draw some inspiration from the video interview above and the wide range of works he has created during his career, many of which can be found right here, on LensCulture.

LANDMARK in New York Times (07/12/2014)

Vast in its range is William A. Ewing’s LANDMARK: The Fields of Landscape Photography (Thames & Hudson), which covers the world and then some: Among its hundreds of photographs are pictures taken of and from outer space. But variety — topical, procedural, attitudinal — is the point. Nothing in the universe is alien to landscape photography, the book argues, from Philippe Chancel’s view of the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which looks like a cover illustration from a 1950s science-fiction pulp, to Elger Esser’s hazy scene on the Sacramento River, which looks like a sepia-tone 19th-century panorama of the Nile. The subject, however, is the present, and the present is mostly alarming. Marcus Lyon’s depiction of Cape Flats, South Africa, is a perpendicular aerial view, bisected by a highway, with the left half apparently untouched woods and river and the right half a township whose houses are jammed together so tightly their roofs look like stones in a wall. There are pictures of war, of war re-enactments, of psychedelic-looking heavy-metal tailings, of ecological collapse. There are fictional landscapes made with Photoshop, and there are landscapes that look fictional but aren’t — Walter Niedermayr’s vast scene of many evenly spaced skiers on a single slope is, against all appearances, neither movie magic nor a diorama populated by miniatures. The book delivers a pair of oddly coupled messages: The planet is in deep trouble, and its trauma makes for eye candy.

 

BOOKS

Lyon has self-published 3 limited edition hand-made books. Each book was created as a bespoke work in collaboration with graphic designers and printers.

NINOS – The Street Children of Latin America (1992) was published to highlight the conditions of children living on the streets of Latin America. Its pages explore the key issues that lead to a life on the streets and the book accompanied an exhibition in Mexico and Ecuador. Designed by Annabel Clements and printed by Phil Lamond at Gavin Martin.

TUNA – Tsukiji Market, Tokyo (1996) tracks a day in the life of the single largest covered market in the world. Tsukiji market in Tokyo is the home of the world famous Tuna auction where much of the world’s blue fin Tuna is sold. The book is a silver-gilded, ram-punched, hand-made, embossed tin covered limited edition gem. Designed by Greg Quinton and printed by Phil Lemond at Gavin Martin

FLOWERS – The Flora and Fauna of the Windward Islands (2000) is a play on colour, surface, dimension and reflection. Each unique spread was created from original artworks made on the islands of the Southern Caribbean. Echoing the flower press the book is a series of high-end French folded prints bound with embossed end papers and Bible paper inner leaves. Designed by Dana Robertson and printed by Phil Lamond at Gavin Martin.