American, born 1933
Bruce Davidson began working as a freelance photographer for Life Magazine in 1957 and became a full-time member of Magnum in 1958. In May of 1961 at the age of 28, Bruce Davidson joined a group of Freedom Riders traveling by bus from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi and began chronicling what later would became known as the Civil Rights Movement. The actions of these youths, in racially mixed groups, challenged the segregation in bus seating in the South and led to violence and arrests. The following year, in 1962, Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to further document the era.
Davidson’s photographs depict both critical historical events as well as poignant and intimate moments. His photographs have been described as extraordinary for the depth of their feeling and their poetic mood, and the work in Time of Change is no exception. A black woman held by two white police officers stands in front of a movie theater marquee sign that reads, “Damn the Defiant.” Martin Luther King, Jr. is shown with Mrs. King and Rosa Parks in a 1965 print. The day-to-day existence of Southerners is depicted in images where black nannies are caring for white children, three bridesmaids are dressed to the nines, boys are picking cotton, couples are dancing near a jukebox, and hecklers are taunting the Freedom Riders in Montgomery.
Bruce Davidson’s personal work has been published in numerous monographs, among them East 100th Street (Harvard University Press, 1970), Subway (Aperture, 1986), Central Park (Aperture, 1995), Brooklyn Gang (Twin Palms, 1998), The Civil Rights Movement 1961-1965 (St. Ann’s Press, 2002), Circus (Steidl, 2008), and a three-volume monograph Outside Inside chronicling his photographic career published by Steidl (2010).
Davidson has been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions including two one-person shows at The Museum of Modern Art, one in 1966 for his series on the Civil Rights Movement and another in 1970 for his body of work East 100th Street. In 1982, the International Center of Photography exhibited his gritty photographs of the New York Metro and in 1999 showed his series Brooklyn Gang.
Bruce Davidson received the first ever photography grant from the National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1967 and has received numerous other awards including the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography (2004), and a Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club (2007). His photographs are in the collections of major American museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, among many others.
Bruce Davidson currently lives and works in New York.