An influential photographer, Matthew Jordan Smith, recently turned me on to the works of Gordon Parks. Smith told me about some of Parks’s famous images, but he also said that Parks’s writings were some of the most powerful words he’d ever read, and they gave him confidence to make a living as a photographer. With that recommendation, I began hunting for Gordon Parks.
The first book I found is the one I’d like to commend to you today. Half Past Autumn is a large book, full of big prints made throughout Parks’s life. But the pictures are merely illustrations to the stories Parks tells. His stories are powerful and touching and heart wrenching all at once.
Starting as a photographer in the 1930’s, Parks continued producing photographs into the 2000’s and his work influenced fashion, film making, politics, and especially human rights. He lived through an era of great change and made the most of his opportunities to help the change along. In Half Past Autumn, Parks tells his own story along with the stories he told for Life Magazine and Vogue.
We like to think that the crossover between photography and video is exciting and new, but back in the ’70’s, Parks was the first black film maker in Hollywood, and has several blockbusters to his name. He was truly a man who created opportunity and grabbed life by the horns. He wrote concertos and operas, as well as a best selling novel. His works changed the world as a whole, and he did his best to improve lives individually.
His writing is inspiring, and his pictures are timeless. The only discussion of equipment in the book is when he tells us the first camera he bought, and when he compares his 35mm camera to the .45 caliber gun in the hands of Black Panther.
I think this book can change your life and open your vision, both personally and photographically.
Highly recommended. Here’s a link to the book.