Man with a Camera Traveling in Time

Fred Lyon looks over the shoulder at mid-century Bay Area—in his upbeat world of enduring images
Fred Lyon
Fred Lyon today—shooting back in time.
Fred Lyon
Cable car turnaround at San Francisco's Powell and Market streets in 1952—without today's lines of tourists.
Fred Lyon
This foggy night at land's end in 1953 evokes a film noir feeling so easily found in S.F.

When FDR spoke to the nation during the trying years of World War II, young Fred Lyon was there, camera in hand. Like his fellow cameramen, he never photographed Roosevelt's wheelchair, or suggested the wartime leader could not walk unaided.

He was simply heeding the advice of his father, who'd told him, "You are a gentleman."

When Richard Nixon literally made a name for himself—'Tricky Dick'—by successfully running a notoriously dirty, Red-baiting campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, Lyon was there too—riding shotgun with Nixon through California's Gold Country.

As San Francisco boomed after the war, as architects and jazz musicians, artists and writers filled the bars and even got work done, Lyon was there too, often with camera in hand.

As a magazine photographer during the golden years of photojournalism, Lyon shot travel, human interest, hard news, sports, fashion, architecture, and more for Life, Look, Architectural Forum, House & Garden, Sports Illustrated, and others.

Among his architectural work, Lyon shot a spread for Horizon magazine about Anshen and Allen, Eichler's original architects. He photographed Eichler's 'Life House' in the San Mateo Highlands for Life. And he photographed Eichler homes in Orange County for Look.

"All architecture should really only be seen in the context of the people who use it," he says. "Readers love to see pictures of people, because we're all trying to make contact, solve our problems."