Bruce Davidson is undeniably one of the most influential and important photographers of our time. Picking up a camera at the age of ten, Davidson quickly found himself on the streets of Chicago, photographing city life. After attending Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, Davidson was drafted in the army and stationed near Paris, where he first met Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1957, after his service ended, Davidson starting working for Life Magazine and became a full-time member of Magnum in 1958.
From 1958 to 1961, Davidson made some of his most seminal bodies of work, including The Dwarf, Brooklyn Gang and Freedom Riders. A Guggenheim grant in 1962 led him to create Time of Change, which documented the civil rights movement in the United States. After a one-person show at The Museum of Modern Art in 1963, followed by a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1967, Davidson spent two years photographing in Harlem, resulting in East 100th Street, one of the most powerful documentations of poverty and housing discrimination ever published. In 1980, after living in New York City for 23 years, Davidson turned his camera underground, creating a startling color essay of urban life in Subway.
National Gallery of Canada, Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottawa
New-York Historical Society, New York, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Wilson Centre for Photography, London, UK
Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
International Center of Photography, New York, NY
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Masur Museum, Monroe, LA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Central Park - Sony World Photography Awards, Cannes, France
Bruce Davidson, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia
Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Central Park, PhotoEspaña, Astroc Fundacion, Madrid, Spain
Time of Change: Civil Rights Photographs, 1961-65 and East 100th Street – Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, France
The Nature of Paris, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
Bruce Davidson – Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Canada
On the Street - Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL
Subway – Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Bruce Davidson - Atlas Gallery, London, UK
Subway, Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
Subway - Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
Inside, Outside - Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
Images From the Inside, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA
Time of Change: Civil Rights Photographs, 1961-65, ICP, New York, NY
Retrospective - Robert Klein Gallery, New York, NY
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
East 100th Street 1966 – 1968, Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle, WA
Brooklyn Gang, International Center of Photography, New York, New York, USA
Bruce Davidson: American Photography, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY
Bruce Davidson - Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
East 100th Street, The Cafeteria, and Subway - Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Subway - Galerie Municipale du Château-d'Eau, Toulouse, France
Subway - Musée Réattu, Arles, France
Subway - International Center of Photography, New York, NY
Bruce Davidson Photographs - International Center of Photography, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Galerie Delpire, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris
Galerie FNAC, Montparnasse, Paris, France
East 100th Street - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Bruce Davidson - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Photographs by Bruce Davidson - Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Bruce Davidson - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Davidson was born in 1933 in Illinois. He was interested in photography from an early age and at age 10, his mother built him a darkroom in their basement. Davidson went on to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, where one of his teachers was artist Josef Albers. For his college thesis, Davidson created a photo essay that was published in Life in 1955, documenting football players behind the scenes of the game. After graduating, he was drafted into the army and was stationed near Paris, France. It was there that he met his lifelong mentor, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Photographing New York
Having left military service in 1957, Davidson worked as a freelance photographer for LIFE magazine and a year later joined Magnum photos. Unlike other photographers before him, Davidson embedded himself in the world of his subjects for extended periods, the results of which formed a series of powerful photo-essays. One of the earliest examples of this dedication was when he joined the circus in 1958 in order to become fully immersed in the environment.
Subsequent projects followed, including his seminal Brooklyn Gang; through a combination of familiarity with his subjects and his own visual poetry, Davidson brought his compositions to life. In 1962, Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship, creating a profound documentation of the civil rights movement in America. The following year marked another major breakthrough when the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his early work in a solo show.
Davidson became the first photographer to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1967, after spending two years producing one of his best-known series East 100th Street. The photographs from this series document the dire social condition of one block in East Harlem, later being published into a book by Harvard University Press in 1970. Davidson is mainly interested in documenting the struggles and triumphs of people as they go through their lives - the American Dream laid bare. His photographs are powerful, truthful, sometimes brutal, and often breathtaking. Davidson's images are enriched by a quietness that speaks volumes about the profiles of the characters he photographed. Predominantly considered by the media as aggressors to society, Davidson focuses on their human qualities, revealing the intimate and affectionate nature of these groups. Through this honesty Davidson gives his subjects a voice and a platform to be remembered by, but he also finds the process personally satisfying. As he once said: "My pictures are not escapes from reality, but a contemplation of reality, so that I can experience life in a deeper way."
The 1980s to Present
While Davidson's most iconic photographs use black and white film, he has also amassed a large archive of colour photography. This has been put to best use in his series from 1980, Subway , in which he captured the gritty vitality of the New York Metro's underworld. More recently he has shifted his focus from the buildings and infrastructure of cities to the nature and landscapes of these urban spaces. From 1991-1995 he photographed the layers of life in Central Park, and has produced two similar series, The Nature of Paris and The Nature of Los Angeles . Both these bodies of work focus on the botanical life of their metropolises, and offer an alternative perspective from the bustle of the city streets, to lend a quieter vision of the urban sprawl.
In 2004, he received the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography, followed by the Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club in 2007. His work has been extensively published in monographs and are included in many major public and private art collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Galleries, UK.
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