In honor of the centennial of the birth of photographer Gordon Parks, Manhattan’s International Center of Photography (ICP), in conjunction with the Gordon Parks Foundation, presents “Gordon Parks: 100 Years.” This window installation will include a large-scale photo mural and slideshow of more than 50 images captured over Parks’ long and illustrious career and was curated by Maurice Berger.
Also on display is a 20-by-13-foot mural featuring “Emerging Man,” an image Parks captured in Harlem in 1952. Three video screens will display evocative images through which he explored racism, urban and rural poverty, politics and the Civil Rights Movement.
“As we celebrate Gordon Parks’ life, we also celebrate his legacy as a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice,” said Berger. “The body of work he left behind documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006.”
Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kan., on Nov. 30, 1912. He became a photographer in 1937. He went on to become a true renaissance artist and one of the most important figures in 20th-century photography. Largely a self-taught artist, his first job was with the Farm Security Administration. He went on to become a renowned fashion photographer, shooting for Vogue magazine in 1944. In 1948, Parks became the first Black staff photographer for LIFE magazine. His extraordinary photo essays looked at life in Harlem, urban poverty and segregation. Two of his most celebrated essays featured Flavio da Silva, a poor Brazilian boy, and a Harlem street gang called the Midtowners.
The gifted Parks was also the first African-American to direct a Hollywood film, “The Learning Tree,” based upon his novel of the same name. Perhaps his most famous film was “Shaft” (1971), which helped usher in the Blaxploitation film era and netted an Oscar for Isaac Hayes, who composed the film’s score.
In addition to being an extraordinary photographer and filmmaker, Parks was a prolific artist, writer, musician, composer and painter.
“Gordon Parks: 100 Years” is on view May 18 through Jan. 6, 2013, at the ICP, located at 133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street in Manhattan.
By JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Special to the AmNews