Fred Lyon - Living through the Lens

A documentary film on the work of San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon. An intimate exposé of a man who is still going strong after 7 decades behind the camera.
M House
San Francisco, California
United States
2 Team Members

UPDATE August 26, 2014 - October 5th at 6 p.m. on KQED PBS Fred Lyon - Living Through the Lens makes its American broadcast premiere. Visit PBS's page for the film here.

UPDATE April 30, 2014 - PBS has singed the contract to air Fred Lyon - Living Through the Lens. The film will air in the fall. More info to come.

UPDATE August 15, 2013 - On July 13, 2013 at the Dolby Theatre in San Francisco a private screening was held for all of the supporters of the film. It was a wonderful night for everyone - CLICK HERE to enjoy the photos from the big night.

UPDATE July 17, 2013 - A very big thanks to those who gave to make this film. The film will make its world premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on September 29, 2013. PBS is going to show this film in 2014. All of this was made possible by your support, the director Michael House and Fred Lyon thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

Our Story

My name is Michael House, I am the director of this film. Since 2011 Fred Lyon and I have been working together to create this wonderful documentary film about Fred's amazing life in photography.

Fred Lyon's career as a photographer is incredible - for seven decades Fred has been one of America's most sought after and prolific commercial photographers. Fred has shot for numerous magazines such as LIFE, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Time, he has been one of America's leading advertising, interior design, architectual, food, wine and travel photographers. In short, Fred Lyon has been at the heart of American commercial photography since the 1940s.

Throughout all of these decades Fred has also photographed his home city of San Francisco - he has created a photographic urban exposé which is unparalleled in American art history. This city exposé is so extensive and so beautiful that it can only be labeled a veritable artistic treasure. (click on the below images to enlarge)

 Chinatown 01   Painting the Golden Gate Bridge, 1950   Ferry Crossing, 1950   Powell Street Cable Car from above, 1948 by Fred Lyon

What is even more amazing is that Fred Lyon - right now in 2012 - is still busy adding to his San Francisco exposé while doing commissions and corporate jobs! Fred Lyon is 88 years old but hasn't noticed that 88 is considered, well... old. Fred Lyon is still enchanted by the world and by all he sees, he is an inspiration to say the least. It is only a matter of time before the name Fred Lyon is automatically associated with Henri Cartier Bresson, Berenice Abbott, Eugène Atget and André Kertesz. In fact, Fred's photos are exhibited alongside these names already, the difference between Fred Lyon and these icons of photography is that Fred Lyon is still working in photography.

The Impact

The impact of this film will be the widening of peoples understanding of photography, art and creativity through the work of one of America's most interesting photographers.

This film will show how one person, in today's highly competitive and profit obsessed world, earns a living off of his creativity, not to mention it contains anecdotes about 20th century photography only an insider such as Fred Lyon knows about (i.e. stories of Ansel Adams & Jacques Henri Lartigue).

However I feel that the biggest impact this film will have will be the actual imagery Fred Lyon has created - his images of San Francisco are simply wonderful, unforgettable is really the word. To impact the world with beauty of this level is a very worthwhile thing to do.

To have the archive and personal participation of a master photographer such as Fred Lyon for creating a factual film is a very special thing, imagine if someone with a movie camera could have followed Brassaï or Lewis Hine around while they worked - this project is that sort of opportunity. This film will get made, we are almost there, but we require further funding to get it completed to the highest standard possible.

What We Need & What You Get

We need $25,000 to finish this film. This amount will cover the post-production costs, pay some of the deferred fees we have incurred and get the film into its final 'polished state'. The final techinical steps such as sound design, color grade, music, audio mix, motion graphics and archive footage licensing needs to be paid for. We have all the people ready to do these jobs we just need the funds to give the green light.

If we don't meet our goal we will have to reduce the archive licensing budget and defer some production fees, if we exceed our goal we will be able to spend on PR for the films premiere and its launch into the festival circuit.

Together Fred and I have shot, interviewed, located rights holders, worked in his archive, story boarded, and basically done all the pre-production/production work - we now have all the elements to complete this film. Our next step is to finish the edit and final post production work after which the film will be ready for release. We are very close to completing the film and have set our official completion date as January 30 2013.

Thus far, Fred and I have fit the production work in between our other paying jobs and have covered all travel expenses and shooting costs out of our own pockets.

I have made three previous feature documentary films on major artists. All of my films have been shown on television throughout the world and screened in festivals such as The Telluride International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival & San Francisco's LBGT Film Festival. I have a distributor ready to place Fred's film with international broadcasters and the FIFA International Film Festival in Montréal, Canada is awaiting the final cut so it can premiere Fred's film in March 2013.

Please help us in our final push to get this film released - it is a subject that deserves to be shared - it's a celebration of photography, art and the city of San Francisco. We are so close to making it to the finish line.

There are some great rewards if you choose to get involved: we are offering downloads & DVDs of the finished movie, posters, invitations to the premiere (travel expenses excluded), even the chance to become a named associate film producer.

You could even use this platform and film to promote your brand or association, if you become an Executive Producer on this film you will get included in promotional material for the film and be included in the 'opening credits' of the film - that is a lot of exposure for only $5000 considering the global broadcast and festival audiences we will reach with this film.

Other Ways You Can Help

Spread the word, use your Facebook page and email contacts to help share this endeavour, recommend this project to friends, associates and organisations and send them the link to our Indiegogo campaign page. Contact us on We want and appreciate your feedback so all comments and insights welcome, thank you.

Find This Campaign On
raised by 61 people in 30 days
79% funded
No time left
$25,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on January 2, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Helping Hand

    A big thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help in contributing to this film and your name included on the film's web site.

    1 claimed
  • $25USD
    A Leg Up!

    A big thank you for your help in getting this film completed and your name on the films site as contributor. Plus a limited edition signed poster of the film designed by Fred Lyon (in high-rez download format).

    10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: January 2013
  • $50USD
    Big Push

    All of the above with huge thanks plus a limited edition signed poster of the film designed by Fred Lyon (in high-rez download format) and your name on our site as contributor. Plus a download of the film once released.

    6 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $100USD
    Your Name on the Film

    All of the above, very big thank you from us and your name in the ending credits as 'Friend of the Project'.

    21 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $250USD
    Your Name on the Film + DVD

    All of the above, gigantic thanks from all of us Plus a limited edition DVD of the final film signed by the director and subject.

    8 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $500USD
    Rare Book Signed by Fred Lyon

    All of the above, huge gratitude form us. A limited edition of Fred Lyon's 'San Francisco Then' book signed by Fred and your name on our site as contributor and become a listed 'friends of the project' on our end screen titles.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $1,000USD
    A Very Valuable Perk

    All of the above plus an 8x10 printed portrait of youself (transferable to another) shot by Fred Lyon in his San Francisco studio (travel expenses not included) and your name on our site as contributor and become a listed 'friends of the project' on our end screen titles.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $2,500USD
    Associate Producer Opportunity

    All of the above plus your name in opening credits of film as Associate Producer, listing on imdb as Associate Producer.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
  • $5,000USD
    Executive Producer Position

    All of the above and for this contribution you or your association/organization will be included in promotional material of the film including front screen credit and listing as Executive Producer.

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: February 2013
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