Photographer Bruce Davidson has been chronicling life in New York City for over 50 years, and this photo discussed recently on Reddit, strikes us as one of his most jarring. Davidson explained to an audience at Milk Gallery in December that he took the photo by playing a role in a police sting to catch subway thieves.

Photographer Adam Marelli was present for Davidson's talk:

The man holding the gun is actually an undercover police officer.  Bruce was helping the NYPD capture muggers in the subway.  He figured since he had already been mugged three times, walking around with two undercover cops might not be a bad idea.  They needed a decoy and he didn’t mind the company.

To entice a would-be robber Bruce carried a map, played clueless and carried his camera on his chest (as he usually does).  Within a few days someone tried to rob him, except this time the cops pounced on the guy.  Bruce turned and fire the only shot.  The man was arrested, Bruce got to keep his camera, and the NYPD caught one more thief.

The photo was originally exhibited at the Aperture Gallery last fall. Davidson has been shooting for the Magnum Photos agency since 1958, and you can see more of his work here.

We're wondering if photos of the police busting iPhone thieves look nearly as dramatic.