They were young, poor and reckless but the very embodiment of 1950s cool. Taken in the hot New York summer of 1959, Bruce Davidson’s classic essay Brooklyn Gang, New York, infiltrates a close-knit group of teenagers as they sunbathed, smoked and bloodied each other up. As Davidson tells, the teens were “violent, sexual but full of life.”

Bruce Davidson is a pioneer of social documentary photography. He began taking photographs at the age of ten and continued to develop his passion at Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University. Later called upon for military service, Davidson met Henri Cartier-Bresson in France and was introduced to Magnum Photos. In his work, Davidson prizes his relationship to the subject above all else. From his profound documentation of the civil rights movement to his in-depth study of one derelict block in Harlem, he has immersed himself fully in his projects, which have sometimes taken him several years to complete. He once wrote, “I often find myself an outsider on the inside, discovering beauty and meaning in the most desperate of situations.

1950s Brooklyn Gang / Brooklyn, 1959

Davidson was just 25 when he made the series and says he got the arresting pictures because he was “close and stayed longer.” Though taken nearly 60 years ago, the images offer a timeless take on the teenage ballad of desolation, love and wild passion.

Davidson’s latest book Bruce Davidson: Survey, published by Aperture, is created in conjunction with an exhibition at Fundación Mapfre in Spain, focuses on the work that has made Davidson one of the most influential documentary photographers to this day. In addition to his civil rights series and his work in Harlem, the book includes Davidson’s well-known series Brooklyn Gang, Subway, and Central Park. The book also highlights more recent projects, such as his explorations of Paris and Los Angeles landscapes.


9 7/16 x 11 in.
320 pages, 190 black-and-white images
Hardcover 978-1-59711-377-9
Fall 2016

Aperture shop.

The exhibition at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid, which is on view until 2018, traveling to Rotterdam and Turin, afforded the pretext for the publication of Bruce Davidson: Survey, the exhibition catalog produced with the support of the Aperture Foundation.