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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

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Artist News, Bruce Davidson "Gifts to the Collection" exhibition at de Young

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Bruce Davidson,  Brooklyn Gang , 1959, 1959. Mid-vintage gelatin silver print. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Jerri Mattare. © Bruce Davidson/Howard Greenberg Gallery 

Bruce Davidson, Brooklyn Gang, 1959, 1959. Mid-vintage gelatin silver print. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Jerri Mattare. © Bruce Davidson/Howard Greenberg Gallery 

Bruce Davidson: Gifts to the Collection
27 February 2016 – 11 September 2016

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) is one of the most influential photographers of the last half century. Working in both color and black and white, Davidson has documented subjects ranging from the civil rights movement to the urban grit of Harlem and the New York subway system. This exhibition presents a selection of 42 photographs and celebrates important gifts of vintage prints that will be exhibited for the first time since their acquisition in 2013. 

Davidson is known for his humanist outlook and a desire to engage directly with his subject matter, approaches that owe much to his early artistic influences in photography, including Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Davidson’s projects include The Dwarf (1958), Brooklyn Gang (1959), and Time of Change (1961–1965), the latter of which chronicles the events and effects of the civil rights movement in both the North and the South. In East 100th Street (1970), he documented a conspicuously poverty-stricken block in East Harlem over the course of two years. Davidson followed this with Subway (1980), and in 1998 he returned to East 100th Street to document the revitalization, renewal, and changes in the neighborhood that occurred since he had last photographed the neighborhood. All of these significant series are represented in Bruce Davidson: Gifts to the Collection.


Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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It is a poignant time in our history that we take today to remember the important work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Illustrated in Time of Change by Bruce Davidson.