Bruce Davidson: worth emulating…
On the heels of my last blog posting came the opportunity to attend Bruce Davidson’s lecture in Rockport on 8/21, one of Maine Media Workshops’ annual gifts to the community. I hope photographers who make portraits filled up most of the Rockport Opera House seats because if anyone should be an example to them, Bruce Davidson is it. It was one of those great unforgettable lifetime experiences for me.
Davidson is famous for his tremendously powerful bodies of work that include “The Brooklyn Gang”, “Circus”, “East 100th Street” and “Subway”. His series based on his time in Wales, Scotland England produced what was our favorite photograph of the 240 Davidson shared with us at the lecture:
Davidson’s portrait of Central Park took four years of courting this famous landmark to tease out a final group of images that present a totally unique vision. His project on the civil rights era marches in Selma is seminal.
Davidson was born at a time (1933) when people understood things didn’t happen instantly or hey, even overnight! Like Emily Schiffer or David Brooks Stess, referred to in my last posting, Davidson spent time (often years) with his subjects and as a result his photographs are made from the inside out. His relationship with his subjects was just that: uniquely his own. With the exception of his “Subway” series (he told us he either requested permission to photograph a rider, or didn’t and ran like hell after taking the picture!) these relationships ARE the work.
I greatly appreciated Davidson’s presentation of his work as he obviously agrees with me that successful photographs speak for themselves. He worked smartly through the 240 images representing his earliest work through to what he is working on today, giving the occasional background story to flesh out the narrative of a body of work, but otherwise allowed us to remain focused on the visual overview of decades of building a lifetime’s oeuvre.
As he signed my copy of “Circus” I thanked him for that approach to sharing his work with us. He understands that his work has so much to say he doesn’t need to speak for it. A master indeed.
The recent publication of “Outside Inside” featuring 834 photographs from 1954 to 2009 includes many of the photographs from his earlier books. This is a three volume set is available from $136 – $195 (and available at Magnum signed for $250) and it would be hard not to justify the expense. If you missed Davidson’s MMW lecture, console yourself with this mammoth new publication sold in a cardboard suitcase. I can’t imagine a better way to spend those long winter evenings ahead.