In 1986, Aperture first published Bruce Davidson’s Subway—a ground-breaking series that has garnered critical acclaim both as a document of a unique moment in the cultural fabric of New York City as well as for its phenomenal use of extremes of color and shadow set against flash-lit skin. In Davidson’s own words, “the people in the subway, their flesh juxtaposed against the graffiti, the penetrating effect of the strobe light itself, and even the hollow darkness of the tunnels, inspired an aesthetic that goes unnoticed by passengers who are trapped underground, hiding behind masks, and closed off from each other.”
Accompanying the third edition of this classic of photographic literature, Aperture Gallery presents the iconic color images that move the viewer through a landscape at times menacing, at other times lyrical, soulful, and satiric. The images include the full panoply of New Yorkers—from weary straphangers and languorous ladies in summer dresses to stalking predators and the homeless.
Bruce Davidson (born in Oak Park, Illinois, 1933) is considered one of America’s most influential documentary photographers. He began taking photographs when he was ten, and studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Yale University School of Design. In 1958 he became a member of Magnum Photos, and in 1962, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to document the civil rights movement. After a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1963, followed by a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1967, Davidson spent two years photographing in East Harlem, resulting in East 100th Street. In 1980, after living in New York City for twenty-three years, Davidson began his startling color essay of urban life in Subway. Davidson received a second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1980, and an Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship in 1998. His work has been shown at the International Center of Photography, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum de Tokyo, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Museum Rattu, Arles, France; Burden Gallery (Aperture), New York; Parco Gallery, Tokyo; and New-York Historical Society.