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As Revealed by Bruce Davidson

Forget images of tourist London and Union Jack flags. Bruce Davidson’s vision of Britain, seen in Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, gets to the heart of society, revealing the stark contrasts between city and country life, of the landed gentry and the common people.


In extracts from his photography books exploring his travels around the United Kingdom, Bruce Davidson discusses his experiences…

I began to realize that my view of England and Scotland was not going to be that of Big Ben, the Tower of London, or the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

‘It was to be more about people seen on the streets of London or in the rolling landscapes. It was about people having lunch in tiny London sandwich shops, people strolling on the wet sand when the tide was out, having formal tea along the seaside, ladies in white playing bowls on manicured lawns, or sheep herders with their obedient dogs along the moors. It was a personal quest I was having in a country with a rich history. I soon realized that I could not possibly convey it all. I could only follow my instincts and trust my intuition wherever it led me over the months of exploration. Perhaps it was best this way, and certainly more natural to me.’ England/Scotland, Steidl, 2012.


Color could articulate the grim reality in a way that black and white might not

‘At times I used two Leica camera bodies, one loaded with daylight Ektachrome and the other black-and-white Ilford HP-3. What both attracted and repelled me was the perseverance of the miners, emerging from deep, dark, and dangerous mine shafts with their flesh fused with coal dust and perspiration day after day, life after life.’ Bruce Davidson: In Color, Steidl, 2014.


Browse a selection of photography books, chosen by curator Martin Parr, including Bruce Davidson, in the exhibition library.

Listen: visit the cities and communities from our Gallery exhibition in our interactive audio exploring five photographs with curator interviews, The Guardian’s Sean O’Hagan, author Pamela Roberts and other voices from around the UK.

Find out more about Bruce Davidson on Magnum Photos featuring a series of photo essays including England/Scotland, 1960 

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers is open in the Art Gallery until 19 June 2016. 

Lead Photo: Bruce Davidson / Magnum Photos. Photos: Tristan Fewings, Getty Images