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Remembering Gordon Parks
December 15, 2012 3:02 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by infini (8 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

Beautiful fashion
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:16 AM on December 15, 2012

Ooh, nice. Some of his work will soon be coming to our local museum. Here are some of the resources about him from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
posted by Miko at 4:51 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I first discovered Gordon Parks through his FSA work, during a time when the photographic works of the Great Depression-era were being introduced to a generation born long afterwards. As powerful as these works are today, I can only imagine how they seemed when first taken.
posted by tommasz at 6:27 AM on December 15, 2012

Awesome. Does anyone know the story behind the photo of the nuns standing in the wedge formation?
posted by bunderful at 6:27 AM on December 15, 2012

the story behind the photo

LIFE magazine had been trying to cover the black militancy for over three years but failed with white photographers, so they went to Parks hoping that he could perhaps gain the access that a photoessay would require. Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam at the time, granted Parks access to mosques and rallies. Parks even grew close to Malcom X, where as Parks became the godfather to his daughter. (Tobin 2000)

One of the noticeably strong photographs that Parks captured is that of Ethe Shariff, the daughter of Elijah Muhammad. She was the leader of the women’s corps of the Black Muslims. In the image, shown in figure 7, places Shariff in the middle of the photo in order to make it clear that she was the leader of the women’s corps of the Black. Parks captures her at the moment where she presents a serious gaze straight towards the viewer, almost through the camera. The audience feels her seriousness with the authenticity of what she and the rest of her followers stand for.

The image is perfectly balanced and by using a longer focal length lens, Parks was able to visually ‘stack’ or ‘compress’ the women behind her to present the sense of unity behind their leader. (Mitchell 2002) The contrast here between the white and black of the dresses with the skin tones creates a strong impact on the viewer. At this time period, blacks where not considered equals and to see them dressed in all white as if they were catholic nuns, presents a shock value to the audience and challenges them to reconsider their stereotypes.

posted by infini at 6:42 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

He was the 15th child of a poor dirt farmer in Kansas. He was born dead. His namesake, Dr Gordon, got his heart started by putting him in ice-cold water.

Thanks for posting this. I was really struck by seeing this picture followed immediately by this one. That juxtaposition alone says a thousand words.
posted by Angharad at 9:57 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I highly suggest a read of his autobiography A Choice of Weapons.
posted by girlmightlive at 2:24 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Awesome. Does anyone know the story behind the photo of the nuns standing in the wedge formation?

A drinks cart.
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on December 16, 2012

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