One Hundred Today

By Weenson Oo on 18:38

Filed Under:



Gordon Parks would have been 100 today. Born on November 30 1912 his career in photography documented all walks of life with his work seen in publications such as Vogue and Life Magazine. Once referring to his camera as a ' weapon against poverty and racism ' Gordon Park's work ranged from portrayal of life for the poor in Chicago, to the gangs of Harlem with his talent being sought in capturing the changing flavours of fashion coming out of Paris.




Gordon Parks did not confined his efforts to photography for he wrote books and poetry, directed films for television as well as the cinema with two of the latter namely, The Learning Tree and Shaft  preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. He also composed music and wrote both the music and libretto of Martin, a ballet dedicated to Martin Luther King. Gordon Park's  beginnings were humble. Forced to leave home soon after the death of his mother and at the young age of 15, he made his way through life and in order to survive worked in brothels, then as a singer, a semi-professional basketball player and while traveling, took to waiting at tables to pay his way.

Amongst his photographic treasures is one entitled American Gothic, Washington, D.C. it's name  inspired by an iconic painting bearing the same title. The photograph portrayed a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew of a government building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag which hung on the wall behind her, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Gordon Parks had been inspired to create the image after experiencing racism  in restaurants and shops.


Despite attitudes during his time, Alexander Liberman the editor of Vogue Magazine hired him to shoot a collection of evening gowns. During this time Parks developed a distinctive style of shooting, that of capturing his models in motion. Returning to document American society following the war, he made a  photographic essay on a young Harlem gang leader in 1948 which won him a staff job as a photographer and writer with Life magazine. While producing photographs on subjects ranging from fashion to sports,  poverty, and racial segregation he became known for his portraits of  Malcolm X, Mohammad Ali and Barbra Streisand.
The poor boy from Fort Scott in Kansas never forgot his roots and it is heartening to learn that a photographic essay dating back to 1961 on a poor Brazilian boy named Flavio da Silva who was dying from bronchial pneumonia and malnutrition brought donations from readers which saved the boy's life and paid for a new home for his family.
Gordon Parks was married three times and succumbed to cancer in 2006. He was survived by his widows and three of his four children. For his work, he received more than twenty honorary doctorates.


Information and Images - Library of Congress and Wikipedia

The Gordon Parks Foundation                                                                                            November 30 2012

0 comments for this post

Post a Comment