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.