The photographs in Bruce Davidson’s series The Dwarf and the Clyde Beatty Circus, 1958, are representative of his engaged and personal way of working at an early stage in his career. His focus is not the spectacle on the main stage, but rather the day-to-day experiences of the performers and workers behind the scenes. In particular, Davidson forged a close relationship with a clown named Jimmy Armstrong, as he traveled with the circus for several weeks. Davidson said he shared an “intimacy, humanity, and meaning” with Jimmy. Throughout his career, the photographer has distinguished his approach to the medium by immersing himself in the communities that he photographs. In his own words: “My way of working is to enter an unknown world, explore it over a period of time, and learn from it.”
Davidson (b. 1933) 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 became a member of the agency Magnum Photos (cofounded by Cartier-Bresson). Through his photography, he has displayed a sustained engagement with social and political concerns, working in series over extended periods of time.