Gordon Parks

I have discovered Gordon Parks when looking for photographers who photograph the unseen and what an inspiration Parks is to me.

He spent much of his taken tackling the poor and the racial issues that have blighted the United States of America in the 50s and 60s. Looking at some of the work I’m not sure how much progress has been made, given the current plight of the African-American populationand the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The website,  The Gordon Parks Foundation (2014) The Gordon Parks Foundation, Available at: http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist (Accessed: 25/04/2017). is an invaluable guide to his life and work and shows how he used his untrained eye to great benefit.

He photographed mainly in black and white, with some colour images in his work. The majority of his images have been cropped square, adding some tension where needed.

One of my favourite images from his work is taken from the series of the “Invisible man” and is entitled “Emerging Man, Harlem, New York, 1952”. I don’t know the story behind this image, as to whether it is a staged image, as some of his work was, but it makes you think about what the man is doing, why he is where he is, how did he get there and what was the purpose of his emergence?

He was also responsible for photographing large parts of the civil rights movement in the States and captured some great images of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali, both fighting and relaxing.

Parks gives voices to the unheard and images of the unseen, as demonsrtated  in his series on the Fontenelle family, whose every day struggles are captured with a sensibility of someone who can understand their plight.



Image taken from The Gordon Parks Foundation (2014) The Gordon Parks Foundation, Available at: http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist (Accessed: 25/04/2017).

I particularly like the lighting capturing his eyes (on the image above) and the symmetry of the shot, including some sort of lighting on the sides of the image, acting like a another set of eyes, observing this apparently strange behaviour. Why was Parks there, in the middle of the road, and what had he observed, or is it a statement of this “coloured” man rising from the ground and our of the ashes? You are left with more questions than answers regarding this emergence. May be this is not Parks’ best image, but I love how it makes me think about the emergence from below!

Long may such work, uncovering needless injustices be made. May the unseen become noticed and the unheard find their voice. I will explore this as I progress through the unit.


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