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Bruce Davidson


Bruce Davidson. Chicago, 1990. Gift of Bruce Davidson.

Date of birth

Bruce Davidson practices documentary photography from a distinctly humanist perspective. Born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, he began photographing at age 10 and later studied at Yale University, where a class project—photographing the football team—resulted in his first Life magazine photo essay, in 1955. Three years later, after serving in the army and meeting the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, he became a member of the photographic cooperative Magnum. 

Davidson focused on charismatic individuals and marginalized groups, including Brooklyn Gang (1959) and Freedom Riders (1961), a series about the civil rights movement. In 1962, with help from a Guggenheim Fellowship, he continued this series by focusing on the March on Washington and demonstrations in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. He continued to shed light on the stories of specific communities in East 100th Street (1966) and Subway (1980), among others.

In 1965 the Art Institute showcased Davidson’s second major solo exhibition, organized by curator Hugh Edwards. Coinciding with the exhibition, writer Gay Talese released his book The Bridge: The Building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which included some of Davidson’s photographs on view of men creating this massive structure. The Art Institute acquired 30 Davidson photographs over the course of Edwards’s tenure and has continued to acquire his work in the years since.

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