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The ‘Dark’ of Crime and the ‘Light’ of Glamour: Gordon Parks

November 22nd, 2012 No Comments
Farm Security Administration photo by Gordon P...

Farm Security Administration photo by Gordon Parks of Mrs. Ella Watson with three grandchildren and her adopted daughter. Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where photography intersects race relations, Gordon Parks is a name that stands out, especially in America.  Two days back Duke University remembered this multi-talented man with a lecture and slideshow.  Parks, among other things, was also one of LIFE magazine’s premier photographers.

His oeuvre is varied, so much so that The Gordon Parks Foundation website has divided his work into eight categories.  Though most of his photographs are (rightfully) celebrated, Parks is primarily known for documenting the Civil Rights Movement and the issues of race that sparked and surrounded it.  What’s more, he artistically documented the reality of the day – check out this photo of a black woman and child in animated conversation under a sign (of sorts) in the segregated Deep South. 

While this photo of Malcolm X documents the age, this one is a gem of composition, framing, cropping, and capturing of a moment.

Parks also documented the lives of the poor – here’s a touching photograph of a Parisian busker.  Parks’s photographs of the impoverished do get a little harrowing, as may be seen in this photo of a malnourished little ghetto-dwelling Carioca.

Do you want to comprehend the bleakness of incarceration?  Click here to see an expository and painterly image.  Parks’s other images in the Crime category are progressively darker, featuring drugs, addicts, and prisons but here’s one expressive masterpiece that would adorn any exhibition. 

If Parks’s searing images of Poverty and Crime are too much for you, veer off to the Fashion or Portraits-Children categories.  It’s hard to believe that the same photographer who specialized in the seamy and sorrowful side of life also shot this restrained and classy image of the high life – beautifully posed, lit, and arranged.  As for this one, it is high glamour portraiture at its finest – from the man who shot drug addicts!

Parks was even a time traveller: shooting in 1948, he somehow achieved an image that screams ‘Art Deco’ from the Roaring Twenties!

Though some lovely images are linked to above, would you believe that some of Parks’s finest are not included – click on Workers to view first-rate documentary ‘street shooting’.  All credit to Duke University for commemorating the life of this wonderful photographer.

 

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