Magnum Eye: JabJab


Bruce Davidson made this film at the world famous Gleason’s Gym in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. He has been a member of the Magnum Photos agency since 1958. His photographs, notably those taken in Harlem, New York City, have been widely exhibited and published.


After his military service, in 1957, Bruce Davidson worked briefly as a freelance photographer, before joining Magnum the following year. During the following few years, he photographed extensively, most notably producing Brooklyn Gang and The Dwarf. From 1961 to 1965, Davidson produced one of his most famous bodies of work as he chronicled the events and effects of the Civil Rights Movement around the country, in both the North and the South. In support of his project, Davidson received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962, and his finished project was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Upon the completion of his documentation of the Civil Rights Movement, Davidson received the first ever photography grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Davidson’s next project, East 100th Street, is perhaps his most famous. Considered a modern classic,East 100th Street was a two-year documentation of an infamousblock in East Harlem. This project was also displayed at the Museum of Modern Art. Davidson followed this with Subway, a classic portrayal of the New York subway system, in the late 1970s. Using color to convey mood, Davidson documented a gritty and lively urban underworld. Over a decade later, in the early 1990s, Davidson completed a four-year exploration of Central Park, showing it as a beautiful and grand homage to New York City.


In 1998, Davidson returned to East 100th Street to document the revitalization, renewal and changes that occurred in the 30 years since he last documented it. For this visit, he presented a community slide show and received an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship Award.

In addition to his best known publications, many of Davidson’s lesser known works have appeared around the world and in many museums. In 2008, a book appeared of his portraits of people, such as John Cage,Marilyn MonroeLeonard BernsteinKiki SmithFannie Lou HamerAndy Warhol and Jack Kerouac.

Davidson continues to work as an editorial photographer. His photographs appear around the world and in many museums. Also, Davidson has directed two award-winning short films, a documentary titled Living off the Land and a more surreal tale titled Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard.

He lives in New York City with his wife, Emily.

An image from his Brooklyn Gang series was used as the cover for Bob Dylan's 2009 album Together Through Life.

He received the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award at the 2011 Sony World Photography Awards.

Filmed and Directed by Bruce Davidson
Edited by Eric Schefter
Associate Producer Maria Liedholm
Executive Producer Kiki Miyake