How Bruce Davidson’s civil rights photos still resonate now

Bruce Davidson chronicled the US civil rights movement in the 1960s. For the penultimate video in BBC Culture’s Through the Lens series, the 84-year-old reveals how he created his iconic images.

“In order for me to make meaningful photographs, I had to be close,” says Bruce Davidson in this video, part of a series marking the 70th anniversary of Magnum Photos. The 84-year-old joined the agency in 1958, and in the early 60s chronicled the civil rights movement in the US.

Video

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When he accompanied civil rights protestors on the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, Davidson had to rely on his own speed to maintain that closeness. “I didn’t have a motor scooter or anything, so when I lifted my camera to take a picture I lost maybe 15 or 20 feet… I had to run to catch up,” he says in the video, in which he also discusses his images of Martin Luther King Jr and a former slave he photographed at the age of 110.

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“I photographed people who voted for the first time in their life, and they were in their seventies, and that was very moving” he says. “It was important for someone to document what was happening in the South, and step into that world.”

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