His weapon was a camera....
March 7, 2006 5:57 PM   Subscribe

A true pioneer has left us. Gordon Parks dead at 93. His ground-breaking work as a still photographer of color during the civil rights movement was enough to garner him a place in history but he strove for excellence throughout his life. His first movie, the Learning Tree is a classic and of course he also gave us Shaft. He was a bonafide renaissance man excelling in music and painting and even wrote a ballet based on Martin Luther King. He was truly one-of-a-kind.
posted by photoslob (26 comments total)
Another great link about Parks life here.
posted by photoslob at 6:00 PM on March 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by H. Roark at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2006

Sorry to harsh your buzz but if you actually looked at the links you'd find Parks created work that is still infuential today. Why not take the opportunity in his death to turn new people on to his work?
posted by photoslob at 6:24 PM on March 7, 2006

Thanks for this link, photo. Parks was a genius.
posted by digaman at 6:34 PM on March 7, 2006

An awesome man. How wonderful he lived and arrived at 93. Gordon Parks went through a lot of suffering, yet he overcame the obstacles with energy and inspiring determination. He changed the world for the better. Here's a brief clip of him that encapsulates a very small portion of his extra large life and character.
posted by nickyskye at 6:35 PM on March 7, 2006

Great post. And excellent use of the obituary format to make an informative and interesting post.
posted by Falconetti at 6:43 PM on March 7, 2006


I remember being introduced to Parks by an artist/manuscript specialist at my university, through the bound version of Park's photo-essay "Flavio". That artist and Parks merge in my mind as a symbol of the brilliance, power and glamour of post-war America. We kids thought we invented art and political activism and sex and smoking and the whole damn thing, but we didn't.
posted by rosemere at 6:43 PM on March 7, 2006

I think obit posts like this would work better if you didn't mention he died, or left it until the end or more inside. That would eliminate the emotional blackmail from the thing.
posted by cillit bang at 7:18 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by oaf at 8:33 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by longsleeves at 8:47 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:49 PM on March 7, 2006

I read his autobiography Voices in the Mirror when I graduated from journalism school about 15 years ago. Very emotionally inspiring work.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:55 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by notclosed at 8:56 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by ab3 at 9:14 PM on March 7, 2006

Parks was one of the great American polymaths. Here's perhaps his best-known photograph, "American Gothic," 1942. His subject was Ella Watson, a charwoman at the Farm Security Admnistration building in Washington.
posted by rob511 at 9:32 PM on March 7, 2006

Damn. I always wanted to talk with him.

Major loss.

posted by ed at 9:59 PM on March 7, 2006

excellent use of the obituary format to make an informative and interesting post.

What he said. That "renaissance man" link is great. His portrait of Ella Watson is classic; I didn't know it was his first professional photo. And I'd totally forgotten he directed Shaft. Great artist, great man, nice post to honor him.
posted by mediareport at 10:38 PM on March 7, 2006


(Thank you for the links)
posted by NewBornHippy at 10:57 PM on March 7, 2006

posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 11:20 PM on March 7, 2006

Parks spent three months with New York City gangs on his first assignment for Life magazine. One result was his famous portrait of sixteen year old Red Jackson, Harlem Gang Leader, 1948.
posted by cenoxo at 12:32 AM on March 8, 2006

This was amazing. Thank you for the links, I'm saddened by the loss.
posted by piratebowling at 2:26 AM on March 8, 2006

There was a Parks show that toured around 2000 or so. The work was uneven but the best shots were incredible. I can still recall vivid the ones from the Rio de Janerio slums from around 1950. Photographs of miserably poor children in the shanty towns with these huge magical smiles on their faces. They were genius shots.
posted by bukvich at 5:55 AM on March 8, 2006

It could not have been easy to be the first recognized black professional photographer in America.

That's one way to put it. It's amazing what Parks — a renaissance man indeed — accomplished in his long lifetime, incredible to think about him photographing gang murders at night and Vogue models in the daytime.

Thanks for these links, photoslob. I never knew the remarkable life story that inspired him to photograph his famous charwoman (father killed by a lynch mob, mother died, husband shot to death two days before their child was born) or that he shot other photos of her as well. This one, which includes a mirror image, is brilliantly complex.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:24 AM on March 8, 2006

I saw an exhibition of his life's work quite a few year's ago at the local art museum and thought the range and quality of his work would put most of the best photographers today to shame. The best stuff that I thought he did was the work on black gangs for Life magazine.
posted by JJ86 at 6:30 AM on March 8, 2006

Photographs from the FSA and OWI by Gordon Parks.

This one is particularly awesome.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:33 AM on March 8, 2006

Jesus, this is awful. It's been a heavy couple of weeks.
posted by OmieWise at 6:41 AM on March 8, 2006

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