Bruce Davidson Digs Deep and Finds Gems He Had Overlooked

Davidson mines the same subject for months, even years.
Selfie at the Belnord, Bruce Davidson

In the exhibition “The Way Back,” the photographer presents unseen outtakes from his nearly 70-year career as a chronicler of American life.

Arthur Lubow, The New York Times, Aug. 24, 2023

Breathtakingly fast and painstakingly slow: Before the introduction of the digital camera, a photographer worked in those parallel time frames. The click of the shutter was instantaneous, but then the film had to be developed, the contact sheets or color slides reviewed, and the selections made for printing.

Pressed for time, a working photographer typically made these decisions hurriedly. In old age, there is time for reconsideration. Bruce Davidson, who turns 90 next month, has been reviewing his archive for the last eight years. In “The Way Back,” the title both of an exhibition now at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, in New York, and a more compendious book to be published this fall, he is presenting photos he overlooked, putting them on public view for the first time.

In a 2015 interview, Davidson named for me some photographers he thought had taken the art form to “a new departure point”: Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus. He did not include himself. He knows he has followed trails blazed by pioneers. What makes him remarkable is the empathy that won over his subjects and the devoted persistence of his investigations.

Frank, who is probably Davidson’s greatest influence, restlessly sought to portray scenes and people new to him; it is one reason he did not enjoy or succeed at the lucrative task of crafting photo essays for Life magazine. In contrast, Davidson has preferred to mine the same subject for months or years, getting so close to people that you come to feel you know them yourself.

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Go See!

Bruce Davidson: The Way Back

Through Sept. 16, Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th St, Manhattan; 212 334-0010,

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