What would be Gordon Parks’ one hundredth birthday has spawned celebratory shows on view all over New York. One of the first black photographers for LIFE magazine, Parks became known for his provocative depictions of poverty, racism, and the Black Power movement.
He says he pursued a photography career because, “I had known poverty firsthand, but there I learned how to fight its evil—along with the evil of racism—with a camera.”
He took the famous photograph of Ella Watson, a government cleaning employee, holding a broom and a mop in front of a sideways American flag, paying homage to the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic. He also took notable portraits of Muhammad Ali, Stokely Carmichael, Gloria Vanderbilt, Ingrid Bergman, and Malcolm X.
In 1969 Parks wrote and directed The Learning Tree, a film based on his experiences growing up in segregated Kansas. Along with being a photographer, he was a writer, poet, musician, composer, and director of several feature films, including 1973 blaxploitation film Shaft. He died in 2006 at the age of ninety-three.
WHERE TO SEE
Gordon Parks, 100 Years at the International Center of Photography through January 6, 2013
Gordon Parks: 100 Moments at the New York Public Library through December 1
Gordon Parks Centennial at Howard Greenberg Gallery through October 27
A Harlem Family 1967 at the Studio Museum in Harlem through March 10, 2013