Bruce Davidson

Brooklyn Gang, 1959

In a career spanning more than half a century, Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) is known for his dedication to the documentation of social inequality. Davidson attended Rochester Institute of Technology, as well as Yale University, where he studied with Josef Albers. He was later drafted into the army and stationed near Paris, where he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of the renowned cooperative photography agency Magnum Photos.

 

After his military service, Davidson worked as a freelance photographer for Life magazine and, in 1958, became a full member of Magnum. From 1958 to 1961, he created such seminal bodies of work as The Circus and Brooklyn Gang.  In 1962, he received a Guggenheim fellowship and immersed himself in documenting the American Civil Rights Movement.  In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his early work in a solo exhibition, the first of several.

 

In 1967, Davidson received the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts. For two years, he focused his lens on the neglected, poverty-stricken block of East 100th Street in Manhattan. The photographs were exhibited at MoMA in 1970, and remain one of his most acclaimed bodies of work.  In 1980, he explored the vitality and distress of the New York City subway. From 1991-95 he photographed the landscape and layers of life in Central Park. More recently, he followed this exploration of nature to Paris and Los Angeles, carefully examining the relationship between nature and urban life.

 

Davidson received an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship in 1998 to return to East 100th Street to document the revitalization and renewal that occurred in the thirty years since he last photographed it. His awards include the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography in 2004, a Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club in 2007, the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award from Sony in 2011, and an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the Corcoran School of Art and Design. Classic bodies of work from his fifty-year career have been extensively published in monographs and are included in major public and private fine art collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art and International Center of Photography in New York, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. He currently lives in New York City, and continues to make photographs.