On May 25, 1961, Bruce Davidson joined a group of Freedom Riders traveling by bus from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi. The actions of the Riders tested federal laws permitting integrated interstate bus travel. These historic episodes, which ended in violence and arrests, marked the beginning of Davidson’s exploration into the heart of the civil rights movement in the United States during the years 1961–1965. Pictured here, the arrest of a demonstrator in Alabama, Birmingham, 1963.


I felt that my mission in life was to make visible what appears to be invisible and I do that as someone who is blind and comes into a world and suddenly begins to see.

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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