Aug 30, 2022 - News

Renowned San Francisco photographer dies at 97

Fred Lyon
Fred Lyon. Photo: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Fred Lyon — one of San Francisco's greatest photographers — died last week, KQED reports. He was 97.

What they're saying: "[His work was] a love poem to the city," Peter Fetterman, a gallery owner who represented Lyon, said. "He has such heart and warmth, and it shows through his photographs … He was one of the great humanist photographers."

Context: Lyon was born in San Francisco, and attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles, where Ansel Adams, famous for his photos of Yosemite and the American West, taught at the time.

  • In a 2020 interview, Lyon recalled his learnings from Adams, but said he "was never going to become a landscape photographer. I always seem to need to include some of the works of man in my work."
  • Lyon became a U.S. Navy photographer during WWII, but for most of career, he focused on magazine and fashion photography, KQED said.
  • A 2022 book, entitled "Inventing the California Look," credits Lyon's interior photos of Northern Californian wealthy estates from the 1940s-1980s for helping spread the state's aesthetic around the world.

Meanwhile, his photos from the streets of San Francisco — like "Foggy Night, Land's End" — are perhaps the most enduring.

  • "I see pictures I would like to take. I need another lifetime to photograph San Francisco," Lyon's told KQED in a 2017 profile. "But my life has been so much fun I can't believe it. I keep thinking I'm being softened up for something really grim. And it hasn't happened yet."
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