Curated from the extensive collection of the acclaimed photographer, this exhibition will unveil previously unreleased photographs spanning the years 1957 to 1977. These captivating images trace the trajectory of Davidson‘s diverse career, showcasing individual photographs that were overlooked during their initial unveiling. Among them are selections from Davidson’s renowned series, including East 100th Street, a profound exploration of a Harlem block between 1966 and 1968; Brooklyn Gang, which intimately followed a group of teenagers during the summer of 1959; Time of Change, a poignant depiction of the Civil Rights movement from 1961 to 1965; and Subway, a compelling glimpse into life aboard trains in 1977.
In addition to these iconic series, the exhibition will feature other remarkable works captured on the streets of New York, in the bustling markets of Mexico, and amidst the untamed wilderness of Yosemite. Although distinct from his series, these photographs remain emblematic of Davidson’s artistic approach deeply rooted in humanism. Drawn from the pages of his forthcoming book, “Bruce Davidson: The Way Back,” set to be published by Steidl in 2023, these exhibited works serve as a testament to the photographer’s enduring creativity.
Paul Roth, Director of The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, offers insightful reflections on Bruce Davidson in the book’s introduction, stating, “His finest works are distinguished by meticulous observation, revealing the intricacies of unique individuals, their beliefs, the communities they inhabit, and the subcultures they belong to. Simultaneously, despite the novelty of these unseen images, they evoke a sense of familiarity. We recognize some of these individuals; they exist within a world we recall having witnessed before. And we discern a vision, a perspective, a way of perceiving the world.”
Throughout his career, Davidson strived to document his subjects with depth and over extended periods of time. Approaching the age of 90, the revered photographer embraced the challenge of curating this collection as a personal endeavor. With a fresh perspective, he reexamined his photographs and the individuals and locations within them, thus expanding the narratives he captured, deepening his reportage, and enriching a legacy imbued with empathy and compassion.
About the Author
Bruce Davidson (born in 1933) has dedicated his career of over fifty years to documenting social inequality, leaving an indelible mark on the world of photography. His educational journey began at the Rochester Institute of Technology, followed by studies with Josef Albers at Yale University. During his time in the army, stationed near Paris, Davidson had the privilege of meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the esteemed founders of the renowned cooperative photography agency, Magnum Photos.
After completing his military service, Davidson embarked on a freelance photography career, contributing to publications such as Life magazine. In 1958, he became a full member of Magnum, a significant milestone in his professional journey. From 1958 to 1961, Davidson produced seminal bodies of work, including The Circus and Brooklyn Gang. In 1962, he received a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship, which allowed him to immerse himself in documenting the American Civil Rights Movement. The following year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a solo exhibition featuring his early work, the first of many to come.
In 1967, Davidson received the inaugural photography grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For two years, he directed his lens towards the neglected and poverty-stricken neighborhood of East 100th Street in Manhattan. The resulting photographs were exhibited at MoMA in 1970 and remain among his most acclaimed works. In 1980, he delved into capturing the vibrancy and challenges of the New York City subway. From 1991 to 1995, Davidson embarked on an exploration of Central Park, capturing its landscape and the layers of life within it. In more recent years, he extended this exploration of nature’s interaction with urban environments to Paris and Los Angeles, meticulously examining the relationship between the two.
In 1998, Davidson was honored with an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship, enabling him to return to East 100th Street and document the revitalization and renewal that had taken place over the thirty years since his previous photographs. Throughout his career, Davidson has received numerous accolades, including the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography in 2004, a Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club in 2007, the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award from Sony in 2011, an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the Corcoran School of Art and Design in 2011, and an Infinity Award Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography in 2018.
Classic bodies of work from Davidson’s five-decade-long career have been extensively published in monographs and are part of esteemed public and private art collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography in New York, as well as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Currently residing in New York City, Bruce Davidson continues to create impactful photographs that resonate with viewers around the globe.
Bruce Davidson: The Way Back
JUNE 23 – SEPTEMBER 16, 2023
Howard Greenberg Gallery – New York