Gordon Parks: A Photograph of Racism and Poverty

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.” – Gordon Parks ~ Segregation history, Gordon Parks. 

Pictures have always captivated me.......I liked them and the stories they can tell.  A photo can cause many emotions and rekindle memories.  Gordon Parks was a man that created those type of photos, these photos are heart wrenching, controversial, and they start great discussion even today.  Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas.  He was the youngest of fifteen children.  When Parks arrived stillborn, his doctor dipped him in ice water, which shocked his tiny body back to life.  He was named after the doctor that saved his life.  After his mother's death, he moved to Minneapolis to live with a sister at the age of fourteen. He worked many odd jobs to make money.  At the age of 25, he was looking at a magazine article about migrant farm workers and was inspired to buy a camera.  Parks probably did not expect that this camera would change his life.  After taking pictures of fashion, portraits, and struggling families in Chicago, he landed a job in Washington D.C., at the Farm Security Administration. 

American Gothic, from 
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America 

The photo above is one of Parks most famous photos titled, American Gothic. The lady in the picture is Ella Watson, she was a black charwoman who mopped floors in the FSA building where Gordon worked. Watson was raising three grandchildren and an adopted daughter on a salary of 1,000 a year.  Gordon followed her for weeks and documented her life through pictures, from home to church. Parks documented the struggles and the life of Ms. Watson. The pictures of her family and their day to day life depicted a clear picture of racism and poverty.  Parks would go on to document more families that dealt with similar issues and also the Civil Rights Movement.

A Harlem Newsboy from 
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America 

The New Yorker Dance Class at Fredrick Douglass from 
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America 

Gordon Parks photos have been in Life and Vogue magazines.  He is the creator of The Learning Tree, the book was published in 1963 and made into a movie in 1969, it is actually one of my favorite movies.  The movie shows a teenager and his experiences in Kansas during the year 1920. He deals with poverty, racism, friendship, family, and enemies.  He also created the movie Shaft (1971).  The movie Shaft played a big part in the blaxopolitation movie era.  He was not only a photographer and a director, but he wrote novels, poetry, and composed music.  When you get a chance please go to www.gordonparksfoundation.org and learn more about him and his work.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family

A Choice of Weapons

Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective

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