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Bruce Davidson

(b. 1933)


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(1933– ).

Photographer and filmmaker. Specializing in documentary work, he often records socially marginalized people, frequently offering, as have Robert Frank and Danny Lyon, a darker and more complex view of American life than is customarily acknowledged. Born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, he began to work in photography as a teenager. He earned a degree in photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and then continued for a year of graduate study at Yale University, where he worked with Joseph Albers, Herbert Matter, and Alexey Brodovitch. Following his discharge in 1957 from service in the U.S. Army, the next year he joined Magnum and worked as a freelance photographer based in New York and Paris. A teenage gang in Brooklyn, Welsh miners, and New York's Verrazano Narrows Bridge under construction numbered among early subjects. Between 1961 and 1965 he documented southern poverty and the struggle for civil rights. In the late 1960s he worked for two years with a large-format camera and a tape recorder in Spanish Harlem on one of his finest achievements. His selection of images from this project, East 100th Street (1970), comprises rich and detailed black-and-white prints that record with dignity and sensitivity local residents and their slum homes. For the 1986 book Subway, he photographed in color on New York's underground trains. In the 1990s he returned to black and white for the images published in Central Park (1995), examining the park and its diverse visitors through all seasons. In a departure from more usual interests, his Portraits (1999) brings together studies of celebrities ranging from Samuel Beckett to Newt Gingrich. Davidson's other books include Bruce Davidson: Photographs (1978) and Brooklyn Gang: Summer 1959 (1998). Becoming interested in filmmaking in the late 1960s, he made Living Off the Land (1970) and Zoo Doctor (1971) before dramatizing two Isaac Bashevis Singer stories in the prize-winning Isaac Singer's Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko's Beard (1973). He lives in New York.

Subjects: Art.


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