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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Monday, August 13, 2012

Photographer Profile ~ Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson (born 1933) is an American photographer. He has been a member of the Magnum Photos agency since 1958. His photographs, notably those taken in Harlem, New York City, have been widely exhibited and published.

Bruce Davidson was born to a single mother, who worked in a factory. At age 10, his mother built him a darkroom in their basement and Davidson began taking photographs. He was given the freedom to wander the streets of Oak Park alone. Soon after, he approached a local photographer who taught him the technical nuances of photography, in addition to lighting and printing skills. In his mid-teens, Davidson began to ride Chicago’s elevated train system into the city, exploring neighborhoods and the Chicago Loop, observing wide varieties of people, and most importantly developing skills and interests that would be seen in his later photographic works.

At 16, Davidson won his first major photography award, the Kodak National High School snapshot contest, with a picture of an owl at a nature preserve. After he graduated from high school, Davidson attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University.

Following college, Davidson was drafted into the US Army, where he served in the Signal Corps at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, attached to the post's photo pool. Initially, he was given routine photo assignments. Later, stationed in Paris, he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, a later colleague with the Magnum photo agency, sharing his portfolio and receiving advice from Cartier-Bresson.

When he left military service in 1957, 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 Dwarf,” Brooklyn Gang,” and “Freedom Rides.” He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1962 and created a profound documentation of the civil rights movement in America. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his early work in a solo show.

In 1967, he received the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, having spent two years witnessing the dire social conditions on one block in East Harlem. This work was published by Harvard University Press in 1970 under the title East 100th Street and was later republished and expanded by St. Ann’s Press. The work became an exhibition that same year at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1980, he captured the vitality of the New York Metro’s underworld that was later published in a book, Subway, and exhibited at the International Center for Photography in 1982. From 1991-95 he photographed the landscape and layers of life in Central Park. In 2006, he completed a series of photographs titled “The Nature of Paris,” many of which have been shown and acquired by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Davidson received an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship in 1998 to return to East 100th Street His awards include the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography in 2004 and a Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club in 2007. Classic bodies of work from his 50-year career have been extensively published in monographs and are included in many major public and private fine art collections around the world. He continues to photograph and produce new bodies of work [via wiki and Magnum]

*click on images for a larger view*
Welsh Pony

Brooklyn Gang Series
Brooklyn Gang Series

So I have done what I wanted to do, I have seen everything, misery, celebrity, the beautiful people, the wicked ones, generosity and hatred. But I think I have gone beyond my vision.... In the heart of my own life, in the heart of other people's lives. Perhaps that is the most important thing I have done. Bruce Davidson
Brooklyn Gang Series

 Arresting Demonstrators, Birmingham, Alabama, May 1963
 Birmingham, Alabama. 1963
 Part of Welsh miners series
  Part of Welsh miners series
  Part of Welsh miners series

East 100th Street, NYC

”The Nature of Paris"

Davidson's drive-thru image was used for a Beastie Boys Cover 

Bob Dylan's "Together Through Life" featured Davidson's image.

Most of my pictures are compassionate, gentle and personal. They tend to let the viewer see for himself. They tend not to preach.  ~ Bruce Davidson


Sunday Best, Harlem

Bruce Davidson's Brilliant Subways Series ~ circa 1980's

Undercover cop takes down a mugger who tried to take Davidson'e camera.

“To prepare myself for the subway, I started a crash diet, a military fitness exercise program, and early every morning I jogged in the park. I knew I would need to train like an athlete to be physically able to carry my heavy camera equipment around in the subway for hours every day. Also, I thought that if anything was going to happen to me down there I wanted to be in good shape, or at least to believe that I was. Each morning I carefully packed my cameras, lenses, strobe light, filters, and accessories in a small, canvas camera bag. In my green safari jacket with its large pockets, I placed my police and subway passes, a few rolls of film, a subway map, a notebook, and a small, white, gold-trimmed wedding album containing pictures of people I’d already photographed in the subway. In my pants pocket I carried quarters for the people in the subway asking for money, change for the phone, and several tokens. I also carried a key case with additional identification and a few dollars tucked inside, a whistle, and a small Swiss Army knife that gave me a little added confidence. I had a clean handkerchief and a few Band-Aids in case I found myself bleeding.” ~ Davidson

"I wanted to transform the subway from its dark, degrading,

and impersonal reality into images that open up our 

experience again to the color, sensuality, and vitality of the

 individual souls that ride it each day."

~ Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson speaks about working on the Subway Series and the storey behind some of the images.

Bruce Davidson's well used Leica.(with Canadian made lens!)
Davidson's Leica arsenal

“I’ve never been a photographer that loves sunshine,
I love gloom. But now it’s changing for me. I just want the tree to be there and to be lit beautifully, and the light in L.A. is extraordinary. It’s still L.A. It’s still wonderfully absurd.” 
~ Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson - Making Contact from Fred Riedel on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. Superb atmospheric images from Davidson Anthony- Just discovered your blog & look forward to enjoying your posts as i've done with those on 'Le Clown Lyrique'blog- Let me know what you think of my own Fragments of Noir blog as i rely heavily on the haunting image ....... Alan