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Before the sixties were swinging: US photographer paints bleak picture of Britain in 1960

Before the sixties were swinging: The bleak picture of Britain painted by US photographer as he traveled its length and breadth in the autumn of 1960

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A unique series of images taken by an American photographer during his tour of Britain in 1960 has emerged before featuring in a new exhibition. 

Bruce Davidson, now 86, captured a country still recovering from years of war and rationing before the cultural revolution brought by the Swinging Sixties transformed it for ever. 

Davidson spent an autumn visiting London, the south coast and Scotland to depict ordinary people going about their lives at a time of great social change. Five years later, he visited Wales, chronicling life in the the Ebbw Valley.

‘I was free to encounter life,’ he told AnotherMag. ‘I was open and didn’t have any agenda. There was a certain sense of sky and fog, of another place. That’s why those pictures are delicate – and I was delicate too. ‘ 

Davidson got a job advertising milk in London and used the money to buy a Hillman Minx convertible, which he used to get around the city. 

The photographer initially published the collection as Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us: A Picture Essay on Britain on April 12, 1961, and said it captured the ‘resilient’ spirit of the British people. But his shots from the Ebbw Valley are also included in the show. 

The exhibition starts on January 16 at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery in West London. It will run until the 14 March.

Bruce Davidson, now 86, captured a country recovering from years of war and rationing before the cultural revolution brought by the Swinging Sixties transformed it for ever. Pictured is a young child pushing a pram containing a doll and a teddy bear against the backdrop of factories belching smoke in the Ebbw Valley

Davidson spent an autumn visiting London, the south coast and Scotland to depict ordinary people going about their lives at a time of great social change. Seen here are two lovers embracing each other in a pub while another couple play on a games machine

Davidson spent an autumn visiting London, the south coast and Scotland to depict ordinary people going about their lives at a time of great social change. Seen here are two lovers embracing each other in a pub while another couple play on a games machine 

Davidson's images show a country still recovering from years of war and rationing, which had only ended in 1954. This image of a child holding a rolled-up mat and a kitchen embodies the gloomy spirit of the collection, which is only enhanced by the use of black and white rather than colour

Davidson’s images show a country still recovering from years of war and rationing, which had only ended in 1954. This image of a child holding a rolled-up mat and a kitchen embodies the gloomy spirit of the collection, which is only enhanced by the use of black and white rather than colour 

'I was free to encounter life,' he said of his tour of Britain during which he took the photographs, including this one of a girl next to a gravestone. 'I was open and didn't have any agenda. There was a certain sense of sky and fog, of another place. That's why those pictures are delicate – and I was delicate too'

‘I was free to encounter life,’ he said of his tour of Britain during which he took the photographs, including this one of a girl next to a gravestone. ‘I was open and didn’t have any agenda. There was a certain sense of sky and fog, of another place. That’s why those pictures are delicate – and I was delicate too’

Davidson got a job advertising milk in London and used the money to buy a Hillman Minx convertible, which he used to get around the city. Pictured is a young boy in school uniform in a smoky railway station

Davidson got a job advertising milk in London and used the money to buy a Hillman Minx convertible, which he used to get around the city. Pictured is a young boy in school uniform in a smoky railway station 

The photographer initially published the collection as Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us: A Picture Essay on Britain on April 12, 1961, and said it captured the 'resilient' spirit of the British people. Many of the scenes feature people on transport, such as this image of people on the London Underground

The photographer initially published the collection as Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us: A Picture Essay on Britain on April 12, 1961, and said it captured the ‘resilient’ spirit of the British people. Many of the scenes feature people on transport, such as this image of people on the London Underground 

A couple share a passionate kiss after being reunited, in one of the many striking images Davidson produced as part of the collection. He is also known for his work documenting the American Civil Rights Movement

A couple share a passionate kiss after being reunited, in one of the many striking images Davidson produced as part of the collection. He is also known for his work documenting the American Civil Rights Movement 

Davidson first visited Britain in the 1950s while serving with the US Army, creating a lifelong interest with the country that would culminate in this collection. This image shows a boy swinging from a tree while his friends watch on

Davidson first visited Britain in the 1950s while serving with the US Army, creating a lifelong interest with the country that would culminate in this collection. This image shows a boy swinging from a tree while his friends watch on

Davidson also went beyond the city to capture scenes in the countryside, such as this photo of a horse lying in a field against a bare moorland landscape

Davidson also went beyond the city to capture scenes in the countryside, such as this photo of a horse lying in a field against a bare moorland landscape

Bruce Davidson: A United Kingdom is on view at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London from January 17 until March 14, 2020

Bruce Davidson: A United Kingdom is on view at Huxley-Parlour Gallery, London from January 17 until March 14, 2020

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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