New Bruce Davidson show captures Britain on the cusp of modernisation

In his first UK exhibition in nearly 10 years, Bruce Davidson paints a picture of 1960s Britain and the divergences between city and country life

A new exhibition at Huxley-Parlour Gallery in London is bringing together some of Bruce Davidson’s most iconic photographs as well as lesser-known work tracing 1960s Britain.

Bruce Davidson: A United Kingdom includes photographs taken on his two-month trip around Britain for a commission from The Queen magazine in 1960. During the project, the Magnum photographer initially spent time capturing London and the south-east of England, before travelling north to Scotland, focusing on the variances between city and country life as each approached modernisation at different paces.

A photograph of couples in the beach included in a new Bruce Davidson exhibition
Couples on beach, Brighton, 1960. All images © Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery / Huxley-Parlour Gallery
An iconic portrait taken in Wales and included in included in a new Bruce Davidson exhibition
Wales, 1965

Also included in the show are images from his photo essay of Wales taken several years later. The American photographer was originally on an assignment to capture Caernarfon Castle in north-west Wales, near the island of Anglesey.

On the same trip, he travelled to the southern mining village of Cwmcarn, after a Welsh sergeant told him it was where he would send his worst enemy. It was in nearby Ebbw Vale that he captured his iconic portrait of a young girl (often mistaken for a boy) pushing a pram up a lane against an industrial backdrop.

“A lot of people think it’s a boy but it’s actually a girl. I don’t think you’d find many boys in a mining town pushing a baby carriage like that. They wouldn’t stand a chance,” he said in a 2010 interview.

Girl holding kitten, London, 1960

His career as a photographer has been defined by his ability to go into insular communities and produce revealing portraits for the world to see. The instinct was evidently always there for Davidson – a man who launched his photography career in the late 50s with an intimate photo series that saw him rub shoulders with Brooklyn gangs.

“I start off as an outsider, usually photographing other outsiders, then, at some point, I step over a line and become an insider,” he told the Guardian in 2011. “I don’t do detached observation.”

A portrait taken in London and included in a new Bruce Davidson exhibition
England, 1956
Wales, 1965
Wales, 1965
Wales, 1965
Couple kissing on the street, London, 1960

Bruce Davidson: A United Kingdom is on display at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London until 14 March;