Bruce Davidson (b. 1933) photographed Central Park in New York City throughout his career. He first sought out the park in the 1960s for its peace and tranquility, capturing nature and open spaces in his images. Davidson, however, was also drawn to the park as a space of social interaction. For instance, his photographs feature a family as they relax on a bench (2018-19.211) or children as they look at orangutans in the zoo (2018-19.212). He returned to Central Park in the early 1990s, photographing many of the same places he had documented thirty years earlier with a renewed interest in the people in the park. As the landscape architect Elizabeth Barlow Rogers said of the later series, “In Davidson’s work we discover the park to be a great theater of human, animal, and vegetal life, a place where nature and humanity interact and in the process become mutually transformed.”
Davidson grew up in Oak Park near Chicago and became interested in photography at a young age. He studied the medium at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University. When drafted into the U.S. Army, Davidson was stationed in the photography lab of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe outside of Paris. There he met Henri Cartier-Bresson, who became his friend and mentor. Two years later, in 1958, Davidson joined the renowned agency Magnum Photos (cofounded by Cartier-Bresson), becoming, at 24 years old, the youngest member. Throughout his career he has displayed a sustained engagement with social and political concerns, working in series over extended periods of time.