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Magnum Photo presents 'Time of Change' review by photographer Bruce Davidson

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Working as both participant and observer, Bruce Davidson captures the defining years of the Civil Rights Movement providing an alternative account of African-American life during the 1960s

Bruce Davidson

“That first ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson Mississippi changed my life because it was the first time I encountered oppression and pain,” said photographer Bruce Davidson during an interview in 2013 ahead of the 50th anniversary of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

Davidson stands tall as one of America’s most influential documentary photographers. During the Civil Rights Movement Davidson acted as both observer and participant. Between 1960 and 1965 he documented intimate, and at times painful, moments that would come together to provide an alternative visual representation of the turbulent period, capturing the dignity and struggle of African-Americans.

Recalling the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, Davidson recounts his approach to documenting the movement: “As I walked with the marchers, I photographed them by themselves and when they stopped to rest. I [had] pictures of them looking straight into the camera. They confronted the invisible audience with proud, determined looks.” Davidson worked without a long telephoto lens or a flash as he preferred to use natural light and never be further than a meter away from what he was photographing. It was this approach that allowed him to capture such strikingly intimate portraits.


" They confronted the invisible audience with proud, determined looks"

- Bruce Davidson

For complete read please visit Magnum Photos.

Bruce Davidson: An Illustrated Biography - L'Oeil de la Photographie

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“It was the magic that hooked him, and it hooked him for life.” says Vicki Goldberg in her introduction to Bruce Davidson: An Illustrated Biography.  Davidson, Oak Park, Chicago born, became the stand-out artist of the middle class neighborhood after witnessing a friend developing pictures.  Suddenly, that seed was planted and would soon blossom into a prolific 50-year career of image making.  His newest monograph, An Illustrated Biography, is available for purchase HERE.

Great Britain. Wales. 1965 © Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos

Great Britain. Wales. 1965 © Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos

" “Most boys my age had a dog—I had a camera,” he has said. The camera was at first a Falcon 127, then an Argus A2 35mm that he got for his bar mitzvah. Knowing that the camera was coming he became so excited that he forgot part of his Torah reading in the synagogue.

His first image, in 1949, was a dramatically lit close-up portrait of a baby owl in Trailside, a natural preserve close to home. It won him the Kodak High School Snapshot Contest and, today, he sometimes dreams that he visits the owl again, and that she complains “So where are the prints you promised me?”

Until now Bruce Davidson has been very private about his life, and this biography is the first time he has let anyone in. Through the many conversations he had with Vicki Goldberg during the course of two years, the reader learns about his photographs, but most memorably about his motivations, his emotions, the life behind the pictures, his life with his wife Emily Haas-Davidson and their daughters, and the trajectory that led him to become one of the most respected documentarians of the twentieth century, a man still eager to photograph until now, at 82 years of age.

Even though Davidson’s best known reportages are represented in the book, this illustrated biography is by no means simply a picture book; following the same concept as the volume on Eve Arnold (the first in this Magnum Legacy series), thorough research into Davidson’s home archive, occupying a considerable amount of the space in his Upper West Side apartment, has unearthed a number of never-before-seen archival documents, which further illuminate the main events of his life: an essay on photography written while Bruce was studying in Rochester, tear sheets from early publications, story texts, contact sheets, story books, logbooks, family pictures, and so on. "

Read the entire review on


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