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Street kissers, street kittens: Bruce Davidson's new Britain – in pictures

  • 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.
  • Wales, 1965

  • 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’
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