Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

2004 Honoree: Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography


Heri Cartier-BressonIt has been said of Bruce Davidson’s work: “His photography functions as a point where loneliness, compassion and social concerns are brought into focus.”

Davidson’s photographs explore worlds unfamiliar to many, but make them emotionally accessible to the viewer. Some of his best-known bodies of work include “The Dwarf,” which follows a lonely circus performer; “Brooklyn Gang,” which portrays the mingled tension and vitality of a group of New York teen gang members; and ” East 100th Street,” which introduces us to the inhabitants of a tenement in Spanish Harlem.

Bruce Davidson found his calling early. Roaming the streets of Oak Park, Illinois, with a camera at the tender age of 10, he began to hone his eye, and then to develop his technical skills with an apprenticeship to a local commercial photographer. At the age of 16, Davidson won first prize in the Kodak National High School Competition with a picture of an owl photographed at a local wildlife preserve.

Davidson attended Rochester Institute of Technology and continued his studies at Yale University. His college thesis of behind-the-scenes photos of college football players was published in Life magazine. After military service in the late 1950s, he worked as a freelance Photographer for Life, and later joined Magnum Photos.
Bruce Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his four-year project “The Civil Rights Movement,” which took him all over Alabama – from Selma to Montgomery to Birmingham. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his work in a one man show that included, among others, these important images. In 1980, Davidson received a second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and spent two years documenting one block in East Harlem. The work became a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is also a 1998 recipient of an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship
In other media, Davidson has explored the cinematic genre with “Living off the Land” and “Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard.”

avidson continues his mission today as an editorial photographer and documentarian. He has published eight books of photographs, and his work appears regularly in publications all over the world. Additionally, his photographs have been shown at the following museums and institutions: the International Center of Photography, The Walker Art Museum, the Museum de Tokyo in Paris, The Smithsonian Institute, the Museum Rattu in Arles, the Burden Gallery, the Parco Gallery in Tokyo, the New York Historical Association, and the Gallery of Contemporary Photography. Mr. Davidson’s work has also been acquired by many major museums and private collectors worldwide, including Topan’s “Masters of Photography,” MoMA New York, and the George Eastman House.