In speaking with Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver, Gordon Parks observed, “You have a 45mm automatic pistol on your lap, and I have a 35mm camera on my lap, and my weapon is just as powerful as yours.”
A noted photographer, musician, writer, and film director, Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was a great humanitarian who used his craft to advance the cause of African Americans in fine art and in popular culture. Photographing for Life and Vogue magazines as well as directing the 1971 film Shaft, Parks helped to redefine the image of African Americans in the mainstream media. In many ways, Parks’ life embodies the spirit of the American Dream, as he used his talents to rise out of rural poverty any become one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. As Parks rightly observed, “The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.” Parks lived by those words, and in doing so, has created one of the most enduring bodies of work the world has ever known.
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Photo: Gordon Parks, Red Jackson, Harlem, New York, 1948.