Gordon Parks

Written by
Kevin LJ, Professional Photographer

Reviewed by
Chris Johnson, TPG Editor

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About Gordon Parks

Nationality: United States

Born: November 30, 1912 - March 7, 2006

Along with being a photographer, Gordon Parks was a musician, author, director, and poet. The most iconic images he made of poor Americans were published in Life magazine in the 1940s. 

Gordon Parks was the first African American to produce and direct movies and is best known for the 1971 film, Shaft.

"I chose my camera as a weapon against all the things I dislike about America—poverty, racism, discrimination," Gordon Parks. Parks was from a large, poor family. Growing up in Fort Scott, Kansas, he lost his mother when he was just 15 years old and moved to Minnesota to live with his sister. His experience of and exposure to poverty, both rural and urban, significantly shaped his worldview.

Park's early photographic work centered around making portraits after moving to Chicago in 1940. He became known for his pictures of society women and worked a lot with African Americans across the city. He worked various jobs in portrait and fashion photography and began to document the black ghetto in Chicago's south side.

In 1948 he was employed by Life magazine. His work there lasted until 1972. During these years, he covered assignments on fashion, sports, Broadway, and much more.

Throughout his career, he advocated for civil rights and tackled issues of race, poverty, and policing. He documented Harlem gangs, photographed Malcolm X, and covered broader assignments on crime in America.


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