Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside

Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside brings together more than a hundred photographs by legendary Magnum Photos member and Henri Cartier-Bresson mentee. Ranging from study prints to rare vintage items, the exhibited works showcase Davidson’s singular ability to chronicle unmediated instances of candor and emotion activated by New York urban space.

Throughout his career, Davidson has used his camera to record the stories of communities at the periphery of mainstream society, more often than not hostile to outsiders. In the historic Brooklyn Gang (1959), East 100th Street (1970), Subway (1980), and Central Park (1995) photo-essays, the American photographer demonstrates his readiness to shape behind-the-lens relationships with his subjects into unapologetically honest depictions of human nature. Davidson’s devotion to the everyday stories of idiosyncratic figures is rooted in trust and mutual understanding, two principles that allow him to avoid voyeuristic documentation.

Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside focuses on the photographer’s depictions of New Yorkers engaging with their immediate environment, oftentimes extending the boundaries of their private spheres into public space. As personal moments seep their way into subway cars, parks, street corners, and other shared grounds, Davidson observes them with the diligence of an artist-ethnographer while capturing the tenderness and lightness embedded in these ephemeral interactions. Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside highlights intangible memories of metropolitan life, reminding us of how photographs shape our experience of reality and help us understand how and why we exist the way we do.

Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside is organized by Benjamin Mendez, Exhibitions and Archives Fellow 2019 – 2020. Audio tour and interpretation by Amy Raffel, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Interpretation Fellow.

About the Author

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and moved to New York City in 1957. French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) invited Davidson to join Magnum Photos in 1958 when he was only 23.

A portrait of Bruce Davidson

In 1962, Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship and photographed the civil rights movement, which formed his series Time of Change. By the mid-sixties, his career had gained traction in both the art world and in mainstream magazines. In 1966, he had a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, Bruce Davidson, and many of his early photographs were published in Life, Vogue, and Esquire magazines. Today, Davidson is one of the most famous documentary photographers in the U.S., well known for his intimate portraits of mundane life across the country.

Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside

Sep 16, 2020 – Jan 17, 2021
Queens Museum – New York

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