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. Connecting with a social worker to make initial contact with the gang who called themselves The Jokers, Davidson became a daily observer and photographer of this alienated youth culture.


My pictures are not escapes from reality, but a contemplation of reality, so that I can experience life in a deeper way.

Bruce Davidson
© Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos

Bruce Davidson began taking photographs at the age of 10 in his home of Oak Park, Illinois. While attending Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University, he continued to further his knowledge and interest in the medium.

When he left military service in 1957, Davidson worked as a freelance photographer for LIFE magazine and in 1958 became a full member of Magnum. From 1958 to 1961 he created such seminal bodies of work as The Dwarf, Brooklyn Gang, and Freedom Rides.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962 and created a profound documentation of the civil rights movement in America. Five years later, he received the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts, having spent two years witnessing the dire social conditions on one block in East Harlem. Classic bodies of work from his 50-year career have been extensively published in monographs and are included in many major public and private fine art collections around the world. He continues to photograph and produce new bodies of work.

© Bruce Davidson | Magnum Photos

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