Born in 1933 in Chicago, Bruce Davidson began photographing at the age of ten during an apprenticeship with a local commercial photographer, where he developed his technical skills. At sixteen, he won his first prize in the Kodak National High School Competition and went on to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University. During military service in Paris in 1958, Davidson met Henri Cartier-Bresson and soon after became a member of Magnum Photos.
On assignment for British lifestyle magazine The Queen, in 1960 Davidson travelled from New York to London to tell the story of Britain during the post-war period. The photographs from his subsequent series England/Scotland 1960 evoke the spirit of the time through poetic and insightful reflections of the people of Britain, their surroundings and their differences. Documenting and exploring Britain from a foreign yet personal eye, it was many decades later, in 2005, that the series was published into a photobook for the very first time.
Davidson continued to photograph extensively from 1958 to 1961, and in 1962 received a Guggenheim Fellowship to document the Civil Rights Movement in the US. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented these historically important images in a one-man show.
In 1966, Davidson was awarded the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, and spent two years documenting one block in East Harlem. This work was published by Harvard University Press in 1970 under the title East 100th Street - and was exhibited the same year at the MoMA in New York.