17.1 – 14.3 2020
Bruce Davidson:A United Kingdom
17.01 – 14.03.2020
Huxley-Parlour gallery are pleased to host an exhibition of works by American photographer Bruce Davidson, revealing life in the United Kingdom as he found it in the early 1960s.
Davidson first travelled to the UK in the autumn of 1960, on commission for The Queen magazine. He was given free rein to create his own personal portrait of the UK and toured for over a two-month period, spending a number of weeks in London before visiting the South Coast and then heading north to Scotland. He found a country that, in parts, appeared untouched since the 1930s, and a society that was driven by difference whilst still emerging from post-war traumas and years of austerity. Davidson focused his essay on the extremes of city and country life, and on the shifting social attitudes to class and custom. He was particularly drawn to documenting a new brand of teenager emerging in London, representing a new era and with it, a growing disparity between youth and age. The photographs were published on 12 April 1961 under the title ‘Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us: A Picture Essay on Britain’.
The photographs in this exhibition, some widely seen and others lesser-known, reveal a photographer attuned to traditions and social cues, perhaps overlooked by the British themselves. With his perspective as an outsider, he looked to formal dress rituals and idiosyncratic customs, also capturing a sense of British stoicism and sense of humour. Collectively these photographs reveal the complexities of both the people and the country he encountered.
‘The photographs in this exhibition, some widely seen and others lesser-known, reveal a photographer attuned to traditions and social cues, perhaps overlooked by the British themselves.’
B. United States 1933
Bruce Davidson (born 1933) has been a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos agency since 1958 and is best known for his photo-essays documenting subversive and counter culture groups. Rejecting the traditional objective approach to photography, he formulated a practice that involved embedding himself in the world of his subjects for extended periods of time, often spending months nurturing relationships. Davidson describes his photography as an attempt to understand his own place in the world, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s he produced several bodies of work for which he immersed himself in communities normally hostile to outsiders, creating powerful and deeply intimate photo essays.
Bruce Davidson was born in 1933 in Oak Park, Illinois. He studied the Rochester Institute of Technology, gaining a postgraduate degree from Yale University, where he studied with Josef Albers. After graduating, Davidson was drafted into the US army and was stationed near Paris, France. It was there that he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the founders of Magnum Photos, whose mentorship had a lasting influence on Davidson’s practice. Davidson joined Magnum Photos in 1958. His seminal early series include The Dwarf and the Clyde Beatty Circus. (1958) and Brooklyn Gang (1959). In 1962, Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship to document youth in the Southern states of the US during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented his early work in a solo exhibition, the first of several. Davidson became the first photographer to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1967, after spending two years producing his series East 100th Street. The photographs, taken between 1966 and 1968, document the dire social conditions of one block in East Harlem. The photographs were subsequently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1970, in the same year they were published in book form. Marking Davidson’s shift from black and white to colour photography is his 1980 series, Subway, which captured the gritty vitality of the New York Metro system.
Davidson received the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography (2004), the Gold Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Arts Club (2007) and the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award from Sony (2011). His work has been extensively published in monographs and are included in many major public and private art collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art and International Center of Photography in New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. and the Tate Galleries, London.