Up close and Personal with Bruce Davidson on DAZED Digital

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Magnum luminary Bruce Davidson is renowned for the unflinching intimacy of his images of alienated communities – here he lifts the lid on his upfront approach:

USA. New York City. 1980. From the series Subway © Bruce Davidson/Magnum

USA. New York City. 1980. From the series Subway © Bruce Davidson/Magnum

Robert Capa said, "If you're not getting good pictures it's because you're not getting close enough."  Bruce Davidson is one of the forerunners of a movement in radical documentary photography along side Diane Arbus, Danny Lyon and Lee Friedlander.  He shares "I always feel like I need to be taken into a world," by entering environments and social groups that he knows little of.  He has an outsider's viewpoint--peering in and "taking" pictures unapologetically. The closeness of Davidson to his subjects and their lives is precisely what launched the imagery into the limelight with enormous appreciation. 

I enter worlds that I don’t know much about and eventually understand what they’re about, what’s happening in them. Let’s say East 100th Street, I was introduced to a white minister and he said he can’t give me permission to take pictures, ‘you’ll have to meet with the citizens committee and they will look into it’, so that’s what I did. They said ‘photographers come to our neighbourhood all the time and take pictures’ – what we would call ‘poverty pictures’ – ‘and nothing changes’. I said, ‘I work a little differently, I work with large format, four by five-inch camera, I hang out, I photograph, and I give prints to people as I photograph them.’ I used to bring members of the gang pictures that I took outside the neighbourhood, say a fashion photograph to give them a sense of another world outside of their world. Slowly people began to understand that I was helping them, not hurting them, and allowed me in.

What advice does Bruce have to share with young photographers? Stay longer, revisit your subjects, wait.  “I think what I see with younger photographers is they don’t stay around long enough. They photograph, let’s say, someone selling hotdogs on the street, (but) they should do more than just take one picture; they should come back, day after day, maybe even year after year to photograph the entire family that has its business (there)"

USA. New York City. 1959. Brooklyn Gang USA. Reno, Navada. 1960. Director John Huston and Marilyn Monroe during the filming of “The Misfits”© Bruce Davidson/Magnum

USA. New York City. 1959. Brooklyn Gang USA. Reno, Navada. 1960. Director John Huston and Marilyn Monroe during the filming of “The Misfits”© Bruce Davidson/Magnum

Bruce has many pointers on spontaneity, deciding between color, black and white or digital imagery, capturing the mood, taking risks and last but not least: grow a thick skin. 

Read the entire thought-provoking article with Bruce on dazeddigital.com

Source: http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/ar...