Monday, November 02, 2009

One/One-Thousand: Bruce Davidson

A Davidson shot of New York's subways.

Bruce Davidson is not a fashion photographer. Nor, by his own estimation, is he a documentary photographer. He says the style just showed up in his images, and there's too much of him in the work for it to be detached enough to qualify simply as documentation. His work wears its non-status as a combination of the two in a unique way.

Davidson began snapping a lens as a child in Illinois, where he was born in 1933. His mother raised her children to be self-sufficient and compassionate, and he did his mother's trust justice in his chosen profession. In his early teens he wandered the elevated rails of Chicago and produced work that won him a Kodak High School Snapshot contest. With more tutelage and training, and a high school diploma, Davidson began a more serious foray into photography. His subject matter took a harder-lined approach as he snapped breathtakingly simple shots of a gang of friends in Brooklyn, poverty in inner city Harlem, a dwarf in his everyday life, the Civil Rights Movement, and the seventies-era city of New York. All are conveyed in his work with an eye not only for compelling stories, but well-proportioned, gorgeous shots.

You can tell that Davidson's subjects trusted him. They gave him themselves, and he made a record of their lives--one fraction of a second to last generations. It's all there, their emotions, their style, their plight--nothing can be separated out. Everything stays visible.

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