Couples on beach, Brighton, 1960 The US photographer was invited to Britain for two months in 1960 by Queen magazine to create a portrait of the island and its inhabitants. Images from this and a subsequent visit to Wales are in the new London show. Bruce Davidson: A United Kingdom is at Huxley-Parlour gallery, London, until 14 March. All photographs: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery
Girl with kitten, London, 1960 Davidson was given free rein to create his own personal portrait of the country over a two-month period. He spent a number of weeks in London before visiting the south coast and then heading to Scotland.
Teenagers and jukebox, Hastings, England, 1960 He was particularly drawn to documenting a new brand of teenager emerging in London, representing a new era and, with it, a growing disparity between youth and age. The photographs were published in Queen magazine (now known as Harper’s Bazaar) in 1961 under the title Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us: A Picture Essay on Britain.
Woman on tube holding flowers, London, 1960 Davidson focused on the extremes of city and country life, and on the shifting social attitudes towards class and custom.
Wales, 1965 Also on display in the show are works taken in Wales in the mid-1960s. While serving in the US military, Davidson had asked a Welsh sergeant where he would send his worst enemy. The man replied: “Cwmcarn!” In 1965, when he was on assignment to photograph Caernarfon castle, Davidson felt compelled to visit the town.
Wales, 1965 Now known for its extensive forests and greenery, the mining town in the Ebbw valley in South Wales had a reputation for social deprivation, and for the scars left on the landscape by years of heavy industry.
Boy wearing a mask, Wales, 1965 This reputation was countered by Davidson’s photographs, which focused on the communities – the mining families and the children at play – and sought to convey hope among the hardships.
Couple kissing on street, England, 1960 The pictures reveal a photographer attuned to traditions and social cues arguably overlooked by the British themselves. With his perspective as an outsider, Davidson looked to formal dress rituals and idiosyncratic customs, also capturing a sense of British stoicism and sense of humour.
England, 1960 ‘It all had a kind of mood,’ Davidson said. ‘This was the last remnant of an England that was vanishing into other things like the Beatles or modernisation of some kind’