Bruce Davidson (American, b. September 5, 1933) is a widely exhibited and published photographer and contributing member of the famed photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Davidson was born in Oak Park, IL, to a single mother who constructed his first darkroom when he was 10 years old. Davidson began attending the Rochester Institute of Technology upon his completion of high school, after which he continued on to Yale.

Despite urgings to turn to drawing and color painting from one of his instructors, Josef Albers (American, 1888–1976), Davidson created a photo essay for his college thesis, entitled Life, which documented the different emotions displayed by football players behind the scenes of the game. Upon completion of college in 1955, Davidson was drafted into the army, where he quickly found himself a part of the photo pool in the Fort Huachuca Signal Corps. When transferred to Paris, he met Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004), who would serve as his confidant and advisor, and also introduce him to Magnum Photos.

After his discharge from the military in 1957, Davidson joined Magnum Photos. At this point, the main focus of his work became photographic chronicles of different places and events, both mundane and famous. One of his earlier works, Brooklyn Gang, provided an intimate portrayal of the lives and emotions of a small Brooklyn street gang. In the early 1960s, Davidson produced one of his most famous photographic documentaries, Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, which was a multi-perspective examination of the Civil Rights movement. In support of this project, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and upon completion, it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art.

Later in the 1960s, he went on to produce the two-year chronicle East 100th Street, which showed the amazing resilience of residents living in a neighborhood rife with crime, poverty, and decay. In contrast, he completed a work entitled Central Park in the late 1990s, which was a four-year tour that depicted the beauty and majesty of New York City. In 1998, Davidson returned to the scene of East 100th Street to document the many changes that had transpired over the 30 years since he completed the work. Presented as a slide show, this work earned him an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship Award. Davidson lives and works in New York.

Timeline

1949
Received the First prize in the Kodak National High School Competition
1951–1954
Attended Rochester Institute of Technology
1955
Attended Yale University
1955
Was drafted into the army and met photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson while stationed near Paris
1957
Worked as freelance photographer for LIFE Magazine
1958
Became a full member of Magnum
1962
Received a Guggenheim fellowship and documented the Civil Rights Movement in America
1967
Received the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts
1969
Received the Critics Award, the American Film Festival (for Living off the Land)
1973
American Film Festival - Received the First Prize in Fiction (Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard)
1991–1995
Photographed the landscape and layers of life in Central Park
1998
Received an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship
2004
Received the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography
2007
Received the Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club
2009
Continues to work in photography

Exhibitions

2009
Central Park - Sony World Photography Awards, Cannes, France
2008
Bruce Davidson, Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgi (solo)
2008
Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
2008
Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
2007
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY
2007
Central Park, PhotoEspaña, Astroc Fundacion, Madrid, Spain
2007
Time of Change: Civil Rights Photographs, 1961-65 and East 100th Street – Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, France
2007
The Nature of Paris, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France
2006
Bruce Davidson – Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Canada (solo)
2006
On the Street - Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL
2006
Subway – Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
2005–2006
Bruce Davidson - Atlas Gallery, London, UK (solo)
2005
Subway, Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY
2005
Subway - Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
2005
Inside, Outside - Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, NY
2005
Images From the Inside, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA
2005
Time of Change: Civil Rights Photographs, 1961-65, ICP, New York, NY
2005
Retrospective - Robert Klein Gallery, New York, NY
2004
Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
2003
East 100th Street 1966 – 1968, Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle, WA
1998–1999
Brooklyn Gang, International Center of Photography, New York, New York, USA
1996–1997
Bruce Davidson: American Photography, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY
1995–1996
Bruce Davidson - Parco Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
1988
East 100th Street, The Cafeteria, and Subway - Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
1983
Subway - Galerie Municipale du Château-d'Eau, Toulouse, France
1983
Subway - Musée Réattu, Arles, France
1982
Subway - International Center of Photography, New York, NY
1979
Bruce Davidson Photographs - International Center of Photography, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Galerie Delpire, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris
1979
Galerie FNAC, Montparnasse, Paris, France
1970
East 100th Street - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1966
Bruce Davidson - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1965
Photographs by Bruce Davidson - Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
1963
Bruce Davidson - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)

Public Collections

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

Literature

2007
Circus, Steidl, Germany
2005
England / Scotland 1960, Steidl, Germany
2004
Isaac Singer and the Lower East Side, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, USA
2003
Subway, St. Ann's Press, USA
2002
Time of Change, Civil Rights Photographs 1961-1965, St. Ann's Press, USA
1999
Portraits, Aperture, USA
1998
Brooklyn Gang, Twin Palms, USA
1997
Photo Poche, Editions Nathan, France
1995
Central Park, Aperture, USA
1990
Bruce Davidson (Photofile), Thames & Hudson, UK
1986
Subway, Aperture, USA; St Ann's Press, USA
1986
Bruce Davidson, Pantheon/National Center of Photography, USA
1979
Bruce Davidson Photographs, Simon & Schuster, USA; (Bruce Davidson Photographs), Le Chêne, France
1973
Subsistence USA, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, USA
1970
East 100th Street, Harvard University Press, USA; St. Ann's Press, USA
1966
The Negro American, Houghton, Mifflin, USA
1964
The Bridge, Harper & Row, USA