Gordan Parks and Devin Allen (05:14)
Parks was the only Black photographer at "Life" magazine. Inspired by Parks, Devin Allen started photographing the Black experience in modern day Baltimore. He made the cover of "Time" magazine as an amateur and realized the power of photography.
Parks' Early Life (04:20)
Parks' life matched the Black experience he photographed. He left home young and moved around, closely observing each new place and experience. His work was an early example of positive news photography about the Black population.
Parks and Ella Watson (04:38)
In 1942, Parks got a job at the FSA and took photos of the building's black cleaning lady with the American flag. The project taught Parks the importance of forming relationships with his subjects.
Photographing Relationships (04:48)
Photographer Latoya Ruby Frazier captured Shea Cobb and her family's experience with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Frazier learned the power of being present and understanding from Parks.
Parks' Series (06:13)
Author Ralph Ellison and Parks collaborated on two series. Parks pitched the series to "Life" magazine, landing his first job photographing a Harlem gang leader. Parks spent time getting to know Red Jackson and the gang, humanizing them.
Camera as a Weapon (03:22)
Parks' comparison spoke to photographer Jamel Shabazz. Parks' work with Jackson helped Shabazz find empathy photographing young people exposed to violence and drugs.
"Life" Magazine (06:59)
The success of "Harlem Gang Leader" landed Parks a job as the magazine's first black photographer. He wanted to improve life for black people using his camera. In 1956, he went to Alabama to capture the lives of people in the Jim Crow South.
Parks and Storytelling (05:20)
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay appreciated Parks' ease and intimacy with his subjects. Parks captured a wide array of subjects and styles because of his ability to connect with people.
Changing Minds on Crime (06:27)
In his series, Parks deracialized the idea of crime in America. He humanized the criminals and captured the fear police could induce. His work made many people question the bigotry and inequality of America.
Parks and Malcom X (05:37)
Parks worked with Malcom X for his "Black Muslims" series, spending months with the Nation of Islam. Parks wrote his own narrative for the photographs, challenging comments made by other "Life" reporters.
Parks and Trust (04:14)
Spike Lee used Parks' photographs in his film "Malcom X." He admired Parks' ability to create trust so he could better capture his subjects' experiences. Parks' work created a narrative timeline of the Civil Rights Movement.
Parks and Muhammad Ali (06:57)
Parks was assigned to cover Ali at a time when he was at odds with most press. Parks captured Ali's actions, emotions, and humanity. Allen emulates Parks' Ali photography in his work.
Parks' Fame (06:14)
Parks became a well-known figure in American life. He made the film "The Learning Tree," based on the novel he wrote. He used his status to support other black artists.
Parks directed the movie that helped create the Blaxploitation genre and made the ideas of black radicalism mainstream. Many fans saw similarities between Parks and the main character. Despite his directorial success, Parks did not get gigs after Blaxploitation ended.
Parks in Pop Culture (03:45)
By the 1990s, Parks' legacy was already established. In 1998, he agreed to recreate his "Harlem Gang Leader" series for hip-hop magazine "XXL."
Parks' Legacy (05:11)
Parks inspired other photographers to authentically capture black subjects. Black photographers are still showing the trauma of institutional racism, making Parks' photos timeless.
Credits: "A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks" (01:55)
Credits: "A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks"
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