Bruce Davidson & Khalik Allah: New York – the Inaugural Exhibition at Magnum Gallery Paris

Bruce Davidson and Khalik Allah: NEW YORK is the inaugural show to be held at Magnum Photos’ new gallery space in Paris. Running from 22 October to 18 December 2021, the exhibition sets side by side – for the first time in a public setting – the work of two Magnum photographers with unique visions of New York City.
While half a century separates the work featured in the show – Davidson’s images emerging in the 1960–80s and Allah’s in the new millennium – what they both capture, with visceral urgency, is the sense that everyone is in the margins in NYC, some just deeper into them than others.

Davidson’s NYC vision took memorable form beneath the streets when he shot in the notorious subway of the 1980s city. Out of this subterranean darkness, he conjured strangely affecting color, harnessing the available light to produce an elemental impression of the city at a particular moment in time.

© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah
© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah

“Color in the subway was different,” says Davidson. “I found that the strobe light reflecting off the metallic surfaces of the defaced subway cars created an iridescence I had seen in photographs of deep-sea fish thousands of fathoms below the ocean surface, glowing under electronic flash, never having been exposed to light before.” His underground expeditions eventually culminated in the publication of Subway in 1986, a seminal, epoch-defining series.

Allah, who cites Davidson as one of his major influences, explored a different kind of NYC darkness: the enabling shadows of addiction. For a few years from 2012, Allah focused his lens on the black community frequenting the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, shooting only at night. The resulting work, In Souls Against the Concrete (2017), places the people of this marginalized corner front and center. Allah comments: “This body of work is about redemption, strength, and resilience amid addiction, poverty, and street life.”

Allah and Davidson’s images respond to each other’s intense directness and proximity with their subjects and represent an invaluable record of New York City life.

© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah
© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah

About the Authors

Bruce Davidson began taking photographs at the age of ten in Oak Park, Illinois. While attending Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, he continued to further his knowledge and develop his passion. He was later drafted into the army and stationed near Paris. There he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of the Magnum Photos.

A portrait of Bruce Davidson

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 of 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.

© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah
© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah

Khalik Allah (b. 1985) is a New York-based photographer and filmmaker who practices Camera Ministry with an eye as open as his heart. The resulting work has been described as “street opera” and noted for its beautifully visceral humanity.

A portrait of Khalik Allah

After a number of short films that reflect relationships formed through portraiture, Allah advanced his artistry with the feature-length documentary Field Niggas (2015), shot at nighttime on the corner of Harlem’s 125th St. and Lexington Avenue. This corner also served as the basis for his first photography book Souls Against the Concrete, published by University of Texas Press in 2017. Allah continued with Black Mother (2018), an ecstatic expression of reverence and realities across Jamaica.

© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah
© Bruce Davidson
© Khalik Allah

This award-winning film has been seen in festivals, museums, and schools around the world; further released in the UK and the US through distributors Dogwoof and Grasshopper Film. Allah’s films are available on the Criterion Channel. Khalik is currently at work on his second photo book from 125th and Lexington.
Khalik became a Magnum Nominee member in 2020.

More info on:

https://www.magnumphotos.com/

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