Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1963. Archival pigment print, 24 x 30 inches.
Stokely Carmichael in SNCC Office, 1967. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches.
Off On My Own, Harlem, 1948. Gelatin silver print, 18.5 x 17.5 inches.
The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York, 1952, 1952. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 inches.
Ghetto Boy, Chicago, Illinois, 1953, 1953. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 inches.
Ethel Sharrieff, Chicago, Illinois, 1963, 1963. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 inches.
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956, 1956. Archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches, Edition 7 of 15.
Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, 1956. Archival pigment print, 42 x 42 inches, Edition 3 of 7.
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956, 1956. Archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches, Edition 17 of 25.
Store Front, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, 1956. Archival pigment print, 34 x 34 inches, Edition 5 of 7.
Untitled, Mobile, Alabama, 1956, 1956. Archival pigment print, 34 x 34 inches, Edition 6 of 7.
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. Archival pigment print, 34 x 34 inches.
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. Archival pigment print, 34 x 34 inches.
Invisible Man Retreat, Harlem, New York, 1952. Gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 inches.
Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1952. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches.
Untitled, New York, 1963. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 inches, 22.5 x 24.625 inches, framed.
American Gothic, Washington, D.C., 1942. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 inches, print, 21.25 x 17.75 inches, framed.
In-home Barbershop, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956. Archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches.
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956. Archival pigment print, 23.5 x 24 inches, print, 28 x 28 inches, paper, 33.25 x 33.25 inches, frame.
Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. Archival pigment print, 16 x 20 inches, print, 24.125 x 24.125 inches, framed.
Gordon Parks (b. Fort Scott, Kansas, 1912-2006) is a seminal figure of twentieth century photography, whose vast body of work focused on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life, documenting some of the most important aspects of American Culture from the early 1940s until his death in 2006. Born in 1912 to poverty and segregation, Parks taught himself photography after purchasing a camera at a pawnshop. He first worked with the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which chronicled social conditions in the United States until 1943. This position enabled Parks to develop his signature style, through which he worked to break color lines in professional photography and provide intense, expressive, and honest photographs that explored the social and economic impact of racism. In 1948, Parks became the first African American staff member at Life Magazine, where he worked from 1948-1972.
Gordon Parks has received countless awards, including the National Medal of Art, the Spingarn Medal, and the NAACP Image Hall of Fame Award. He has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Art Institute of Chicago. A new exhibition I am You; Selected Works 1942-1978 traveled to institutions internationally throughout 2016 and 2017 and Gordon Parks: The New Tide, 1940-1950 debuted over 120 photographs and ephemera from Park’s early career at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C in the fall of 2018.
We’re living through a Gordon Parks renaissance. Parks achieved many firsts as an acclaimed Black photographer, writer, musician and film director, making him an obvious figure to celebrate as the art world reckons with racial injustice.
Gordon Parks’s 1956 photograph of a Black woman and her child beneath a department store sign that reads COLORED ENTRANCE is famous for a reason. It is an elegant image, with a zigzag composition that carefully directs the eye, and yet it is also a painful one because it finds a way of rendering the structural racism of the American South so visibly.
Because this year marks the 50th anniversary of his groundbreaking 1971 film, “Shaft”; because two fine shows of his pioneering photojournalism are currently on view at the Jack Shainman galleries in Chelsea; because a suite from his influential 1957 series, “The Atmosphere of Crime,” is a highlight of “In and Around Harlem,” now on view at the Museum of Modern Art; and because, somehow, despite the long shadow cast by a man widely considered the pre-eminent Black American photographer of the 20th century, he is too little known, the time seems right to revisit some elements of the remarkable life, style and undimmed relevance of Gordon Parks.
The Washington Post offers a beautiful and attentive review of Gordon Parks' new book of photography The Atmosphere of Crime: "Parks’s photographs present a more insightful, delicate and disinterested view. They remind us that an atmosphere is not the same as a narrative. One is complex, pervasive, inchoate and, like a fog, it can lift. The other is linear. Like an obsession, it keeps corkscrewing ahead, leaving all kinds of damage in its wake."
A.O. Scott of The New York Times discusses the context and the legacy of Gordon Parks' film The Learning Tree (1969). "The Learning Tree is something else...an absolutely personal film, entwined with its creator’s own experiences, that lays authoritative claim to a place in the American mainstream. At Life (and before that at the New Deal-era Farm Security Administration), Parks was known for his intensive, intimate portraits of housing projects, working-class neighborhoods and poor, rural towns, and there was always a risk, given the institutional whiteness of the Time Life Corporation, that those images could be misinterpreted as exotic. But his aesthetic rigor — the beauty and integrity of those images — ensured that Parks was doing more than explaining black life to white America. He was, like his exact contemporary Ralph Ellison (who grew up one state south of Parks, in Oklahoma, and who like Parks eventually went north) committed to the grand midcentury project of explaining America to itself.
A Review of Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940-1950, currently on view at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
A look at how the photographer translated his humanistic view of urban crime to the silver screen.
Review of Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940-1950 at the National Gallery of Art.
Study of Gordon Parks's photograph American Gothic.
Review of I Am You | Part 1 at Jack Shainman Gallery.
“From the start, Parks knew how to make a beautiful picture,” photography critic Vince Aletti said. And it is true that, long after Parks established his reputation with unflinching photographic series on the civil rights movement, Harlem gangs, the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, he continued to move easily between photojournalism and the fashion work for which he maintained a lifelong regard — and which, along with his access to elements of Black life largely invisible to white readers, was among the reasons he was hired in the first place by Life."