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PHOTOS: Two American photographers found inspiration in the UK of the 1960-70's

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Bruce Davidson and Paul Caponigro both work in black and white and both picked up cameras at an early age. But their focus is very different.

Bruce Davidson and Paul Caponigro are two contemporary American photographers whose lives and work converge and diverge in meaningful ways. Both work in black and white, both picked up cameras at an early age, and both made career-changing journeys to Europe some 50 years ago.

But the subjects of their cameras were very different.

Davidson focused on the faces and lives of ordinary people. Caponigro turned to the beauty of the natural world and ancient man-made structures. 

Now their photos are the subject of the exhibit: Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Jennifer Watts, co-curator of the exhibit, described who the photographers were and how they ended up in Europe.  

On Bruce Davidson's childhood...

Bruce Davidson was born in outside Chicago and got his first camera as a 13-year-old boy, started roaming around the streets. He had a very unhappy childhood, barely graduated from high school. When he got out of high school, his father pulled some strings to get him into the Rochester Institute of Technology. And as Bruce would tell it, as soon as he got there, he wanted to impress a girl. 

On Paul Caponigro's upbringing... 

Paul Capiniogro also had a very troubled childhood and had taken up a camera when he was 13. He was not trying to impress a girl, he was trying to get away from his very loud and ubstrpourous family. He was an introvert just like Bruce, but he used his camera to get back to nature — so that was an influence for him, becoming one with nature. 

How Davidson ended up in Britain...

Then they find themselves in Europe, for different circumstances and for very different reasons. Davidson was invited to Britain by a magazine called The Queen, which would be equivalent to a hipper and British Town and Country. He caught The Queen's attention by his well-known ground breaking series Brooklyn gang. They wanted to run a portfolio called "Seeing Ourselves as an American Sees Us." 

The reason Caponigro went to Ireland...

He was a fine art photographer, teaching and giving workshops. So he applied at the Guggenheim to go do the Celtic art and architecture of Ireland and he got it. In 1966, he took his family and went for a year. And he quickly became besodded by the ladnsacpe and the megalithic structures like Stone Henge, the Dolmans and the mystical elements of landscape

At the exhibition... 

Caponigro's work is a very reverential experience with depth and beauty that you really want to spend time looking at. Davidson's photographs have a certain energy and humor, sort of whimsy that comes through, and empathy.  

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