Bruce Davidson:
Outsider on the Inside

Joining the Magnum Photos agency in 1958, Bruce Davidson took inspiration from his mentor Henri Cartier-Bresson to redefine the genre of documentary photography and photojournalism. He is perhaps best known for his photo-essays documenting diverse and underprivileged groups at the margins of the urban environment.  Unmediated and direct, Davidson’s photographs capture moments of real people inhabiting public spheres. We see mundane activities in the park, on a street corner, or in a subway car, as well as outdoor labor, homelessness, and daily routines. In series ranging from the historic Brooklyn Gang (1959) to East 100th Street (1966), Subway (1980) and Lower East Side (circa 1990), the individuals in Davidson’s photographs tell stories through unhampered and unguarded human expressions in public. Bruce Davidson’s camera captures what is often intangible: authenticity, affect, and time.

This exhibition is the first presentation of Bruce Davidson photographs recently acquired by the Museum. Spanning from 1958 to 2008, encompassing more than a dozen series of his celebrated work, it features over a hundred photographs under the overarching theme of private moments seen in public spaces. Rather than presenting his work within their distinct series framed in a particular time and place, this exhibition weaves new subject-based constellations and poetic visual associations such as “Play and Recreation”, “Affection and Community”, and “Work and Movement.”  Tapping on photography’s ability to capture a state of congruence between humans and world, Outsider on the Inside highlights the subtle and not so subtle expressions of humanity at the forefront in Davidson’s work.

Bruce Davidson: Outsider on the Inside is organized by Benjamin Mendez, Exhibitions and Archives Fellow 2019-2020.

Image: Bruce Davidson, from the series Brooklyn Gang, 1959. Gelatin silver print.

Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, and Bank of America. The official hotel sponsor of the Queens Museum is Boro New York.