Black History

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was known as the first African-American photographer for LIFE and Vogue magazines and the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie.

“I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty.” -Gordon Parks

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Gordon Parks was known as the first African-American photographer for LIFE and Vogue magazines and the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie. Parks was a self-taught artist (writer, photographer, composer, and filmmaker). His work focused on issues such as poverty and social justices.

He was born November 30, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas. At the age of 25 he purchased his first camera, which was inspired by his viewing of migrant workers in a magazine. Parks took early fashion pictures, which caught Marva Louis’ eye, and she encouraged him to move to a larger city. Parks and his wife, Sally, moved to Chicago, where he explored subjects beyond portraits and fashion pictures.

In 1941, Parks won a Photography fellowship with Farm Security Administration for his photos of the inner city of Chicago. For several years he was a freelance photographer for Vogue, and in 1948 he wrote a photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader and that won him a position as a staff photographer for LIFE magazine, where he worked for 20 years. On March 7, 2006, Gordon Parks passed away of cancer in New York City.

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