This year marks the centennial of the birth of Gordon Parks, a poet, novelist, composer, musician, filmmaker, and seminal figure of twentieth century photography. Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912. He purchased his first camera in a pawn shop in 1938 and taught himself how to use it, beginning a career that included working for the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.), Vogue magazine, and Life Magazine, where he broke the color barrier to become the first African American staff photographer and writer for what was then the world’s most prominent photojournalism publication. Parks was a humanitarian and an activist and his work often championed social justice and equality. While he is primarily known for his photography, Parks also wrote and directed several films, includingShaft, a major success. He also played jazz piano, composed and choreographed a ballet, published several books of poetry, and wrote a novel. This exhibition features Parks’ most famous photographs such as American Gothic, Washington D.C., The esteemed photographer and art historian Dr. Deborah Willis will lecture about Parks’ work on October 4 at 7pm. There will be a reception with refreshments preceding the lecture at 6:30pm in the Wolf Hall lobby.
“I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty. I could have just as easily picked up a knife or gun, like many of my childhood friends did, most of whom were murdered or put in prison, but I chose not to go that way. I felt that I could somehow subdue these evils by doing something beautiful that people recognize me by, and thus make a whole different life for myself.” — Gordon Parks