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Photographer Bruce Davidson’s Vision of Los Angeles in 1964

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Known for his street photography and civil rights coverage, Bruce Davidson rose to prominence through his freelance work for Life magazine and later joined the Magnum Photo agency in 1958. Davidson’s most documented subjects were the residents of New York City, particularly in Harlem; but he did make a trip to the West Coast, which resulted in an insightful photo essay that’s now become a book, Los Angeles 1964. Here’s Davidson describing the trip in his own words:

Esquire’s editors sent me to Los Angeles, and when I landed at L.A. International Airport, I noticed giant palm trees growing in the parking lot. I ordered a hamburger through a microphone speaker in a drive-in called Tiny Naylor’s. The freeways were blank and brilliant, chromium-plated bumpers reflected the Pacific Ocean, but the air quality was said to be bad. People looking like mannequins seemed at peace on the Sunset Strip while others were euphoric as they watered the desert. I stood there ready with my Leica, aware of my shadow on the pavement. I walked up to strangers, framed, focused, and in a split second of alienations and cynicism, pressed the shutter button. Suddenly I had an awakening that led me to another level of visual understanding. But in the end, for some unknown reasons, the editors rejected the pictures, and I had to return home with a big box of prints, put them in a drawer, and forgot all about the trip.”

See Davidson’s vision of Los Angeles below.

(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)
(Los Angeles 1964 by Bruce Davison, published by Steidl)