The photography of Bruce Davidson sheds light on subjects that have been isolated or marginalized from society and, in many cases, are hostile to outsiders themselves. His photographs show a keen desire to reveal and understand the complexities of individual lives and reflect universal truths and concerns.
Image: Emily Davidson, Photographer Bruce Davidson, New York City, New York, USA, 2001
Bruce Davidson was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1933. He became interested in photography at age ten when his mother built him a darkroom in the family basement. After studying photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, he served as a military photographer stationed at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe. When he returned, his photographs were published in Life Magazine before he joined the prestigious photography agency, Magnum Photos.
Davidson’s early work was an important part of the photographic genre termed ‘the social landscape’ by photographer and curator Nathan Lyons in his exhibition and book entitled Contemporary Photographers Toward a Social Landscape (1966). This type of photography allows for the photographer to have a subjective point of view while working within a documentary tradition. Davidson often photographed groups or individuals isolated from society; his series on a teenage Brooklyn gang and another about a dwarf clown have become classics. His images are characterized by sensitivity, mutual trust and understanding.
Upon the completion of a series of photographs documenting the civil rights movement, he received the first photography grant ever awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts (1967). He spent the next two years photographing one city block in East Harlem. The resulting book and exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, East 100th Street, is a seminal and widely-referenced work, considered the first wed documentary and fine art photography.
Davidson’s photographs have appeared in numerous publications and his prints have been acquired by many museums worldwide. He has also directed three films.