The photographer begins to feel big and bloated and so big he can’t walk through one of these doors because he gets a good byline; he gets notices all over the world and so forth; but they’re really – the important people are the people he photographs.
Gordon Parks spent much of his career as a photographer for Life Magazine. His subjects included everything from sports and Broadway to poverty, and racial segregation. He is one of the most respected and provocative photo journalists who’s images documented some of the most challenging times in modern US history.
Parks grew up in a small town in Kansas where he attended a segregated elementary school. When he went to high school, he was told that blacks were not allowed to play sports or attend any social activities. He was discouraged from seeking a higher education and was told it was a waste of money. After the death of his mother, he ended being turned out on to the streets homeless. He ended up spending the next 10 years working in jobs with little future.
The man at Kodak told me the shots were very good and if I kept it up, they would give me an exhibition. Later, Kodak gave me my first exhibition.
At the age of twenty-five he bought his first camera. a V,gtlnder Brillant, for $12.50 at a Seattle, Washington, pawnshop. The clerks who developed his first role of film encouraged him to seek professional assignments. He began his career focussing on portraits of society women and made many professional connections that led him to Chicago. As he developed his portrait business he began to chronicle the black ghettos on the city’s South Side. This led to critical recognition and a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA).
Parks went on to shoot for Vogue magazine as a fashion photographer and published books about photography including Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). He then landed a staff job at Life Magazine where he began an extensive career.
Things continued to evolve and he worked as a consultant in Hollywood. He found himself a director often working on televised documentaries that brought his subjects to life. It was his film adaptation of his autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree in 1969, Parks became the first major black director in Hollywood. He went on to direct the detective film series based featuring the character Shaft.
In his lifetime , Gordon Parks received more than twenty honorary doctorates. His images have captured many important events and gave a voice to a part of society that often lacked one.. He is not only known for his images, but for his activism and giving a voice to those who didn’t have one.
I’d become sort of involved in things that were happening to people. No matter what color they be, whether they be Indians, or Negroes, the poor white person or anyone who was I thought more or less getting a bad shake