Gordon Parks was an extraordinary, multi-talented renaissance man—an artist, activist and humanitarian—who removed barriers for African Americans nationwide. Gordon Parks was an accomplished photographer, filmmaker, composer, writer, and artist. He began his photography career taking fashion photos for Frank Murphy’s clothing store in St. Paul, MN. he is well known for his work with the Farm Security Administration, and was the first African American photographer for both Vogue and Life magazines. He was the first African American to direct a major Hollywood feature film, and he has written several works of fiction, photographic technique manuals, and memoirs, and composed soundtracks for several of his films.
Gordon Parks was only 16 in 1928 when he moved from Kansas to St. Paul, Minnesota, after his mother’s death. There, homeless and hungry, he began his fight to survive the brutal Minnesota winter, to educate himself, and to ‘prove my worth.’ Working at a succession of jobs from janitor to railroad porter to busboy to musician to professional basketball player, in such places as St. Paul, Chicago, and New York, Parks struggled against poverty and racism, not just to avoid failure but to achieve success. He taught himself photography with a secondhand camera [his “choice of weapons”], worked for local newspapers serving the black community, and began to document the poverty among blacks on Chicago’s South Side. His portfolio won him a yearlong fellowship, which he spent with the Farm Security Administration, and eventually a job with Life magazine.
– Minnesota Historical Society Press
INDEPENDENT LENS – Through a Lens Darkly
Aired: 02/16/2015 | 01:47 | Rating: TV-PG
In this excerpt from the opening moments of the Independent Lens documentary Through a Lens Darkly, the groundbreaking African American photographer Gordon Parks is explored. A hero to many modern photographers, Parks “felt the need to use humanity to get people to become aware of how people suffered.”