Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Parks

03
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ustExhibition dates: 17th January 2015 – 13th September 2015

Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335)

 

 

It’s been a really tough time writing the Art Blart recently, as my beloved Apple Pro tower that has served me so well over the years has died and gone to god. I have been making do with a small laptop, but tomorrow I pick up my new 27 inch iMac with Retina screen, to pair with my Eizo Flexscan monitor. I can’t wait!

I have so much admiration for the work of this man. The light, the sensitivity to the social documentary narrative just emanates from these images. You don’t need to say much, it’s all there in front of you. Just look at the proud profile of that old woman, Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas (1950, below), and you are instantly transported back to the slave fields and southern plantations of the 19th century. No words are necessary. The bony hands, gaunt cheeks and determined stare speak of a life hard lived.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Gordon Parks (1912-2006), one of the most celebrated African-American photographers of all time, is the subject of a new exhibition of groundbreaking photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (January 17 – September 13, 2015) traces Parks’ return to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas and then to other Midwestern cities, to track down and photograph each of his childhood classmates. On view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, the exhibition’s 42 photographs were from a series originally meant to accompany a Life magazine photo essay – but for reasons unknown, the story was never published. The images depict the realities of life under segregation in 1950 – presenting a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African-American citizens in the years before the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. One of the most personal and captivating of all Parks’ projects, the images, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, represent a rare and little-known group within Parks’ oeuvre. This exhibition, on view in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery, is accompanied by a publication by Karen Haas, the MFA’s Lane Curator of Photographs, in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, which includes an introduction by Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book includes previously unpublished photographs as well as archival materials such as contact sheets and a portion of the 1927 yearbook from the segregated school Parks attended as a child.

“These personal and often touching photos offer a glimpse into the life of Gordon Parks and the prejudice that confronted African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “We’re grateful to The Gordon Parks Foundation for giving us the opportunity to display these moving works.”
Fort Scott, Kansas was an emotional touchstone for Gordon Parks and a place that he was drawn to over and over again as an adult, even though it held haunting memories of racism and discrimination. Parks was born in Fort Scott in 1912 to a poor tenant farmer family and left home as a teenager after his mother died and he found himself – the youngest of 15 children – suddenly having to make his own way in the world. By 1948, Parks was the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine. One of the rare African-American photojournalists in the field, Parks was frequently given magazine assignments involving social issues that his fellow white photographers were not asked to cover. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Parks returned to Fort Scott to revisit early memories of his birthplace – many involving racial discrimination – and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom went to the same all-black elementary school that Parks had attended.  He was able to track down all but two members of the Plaza School Class of 1927, although only one was still living in Fort Scott at the time. As he met with fellow classmates, his story quickly shifted its focus to the Great Migration north by African Americans. Over the course of several days Parks visited with his childhood friends – by this time residing in Kansas City; Saint Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Chicago – joining them in their parlors and on their front porches while they recounted their life stories to him. Organized around each of these cities and families, the exhibition features previously unpublished photographs as well as a seven-page draft of Parks’ text for the article.

“With the Back to Fort Scott story, Parks showed – really for the first time – a willingness to mine his own childhood for memories both happy and painful, something he would continue to do in a series of memoirs over the course of his long career” said Haas. “The experience also seems to have inspired him to write The Learning Tree in 1963, his best-selling novel about growing up poor and black in Kansas, that he transformed a few years later into a groundbreaking Hollywood movie – the first by an African American writer-director.”

Parks began his research in Fort Scott, where he found classmate Luella Russell. In addition to photographing Luella with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, Parks took photos of his own family and life around town – finding friends and acquaintances at the local theater, railway station and pool hall. Parks also visited the local baseball field at Othick Park, where he recorded a group of white spectators seated at one end of the bleachers watching a game, while two African-American girls in summer dresses stand at the other end, in an area loosely designated for the town’s black residents. Parks’ image of the girls at the ballpark, where black and white baseball teams sometimes competed against each other, subtly refers to the separation of the races that marked much of everyday life in Fort Scott.

Fort Scott had not changed dramatically since Parks’ youth. Parks attended the all-black Plaza School through the ninth grade  in 1927, and as he wrote in his draft for Life magazine: “Twenty-four years before I had walked proudly to the center of the stage and received a diploma. There were twelve of us (six girls and six boys) that night. Our emotions were intermingled with sadness and gaiety. None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the whites, nor did we bother to ask. The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of six and swam out maladjusted… nine years later.”

After Fort Scott, Parks discovered three of his classmates in Kansas City and St. Louis – cities that were easily reached by rail and were often the first stops made by African Americans leaving smaller towns. Many left towns like Fort Scott in the hope of finding jobs and better futures for their children in these larger, more industrial cities. When Parks tracked down his classmates, he recorded their jobs and wages – the sort of detail that Life typically included in such pieces, allowing its readers to measure their own lives against a story’s subjects. In Kansas City, classmate Peter Thomason was working as a postal transportation clerk (a position, Parks noted, with a minimum salary of $3,700 a year), while in St. Louis, Parks recorded that classmate Norman Earl Collins was doing quite well, making $1.22 an hour at Union Electric of Missouri. Parks’ sympathetic images of Earl and his daughter, Doris Jean, may have been a conscious effort on Parks’ part to offset contemporary stereotypes of black families as less stable and strong than their white counterparts.

By 1950, Chicago was the de facto capital of African-American life in the US, with more black inhabitants than any other city in America – including three of Parks’ classmates. Parks discovered them residing only a mile or two apart from one another on the city’s South Side. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois (1950), depicts Parks’ classmate Fred Wells and his wife Mary in front of their apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood. A number of the photographs in the exhibition repeat the simple compositional device seen here – featuring a classmate and his or her family, framed by the front door of their home. These images highlighted the families’ similarities to, rather than differences from Life‘s readers, who would have found such strong representations of black families at once surprising and reassuring.

In Detroit, Parks traced classmate Pauline Terry to the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. In Fort Scott, Pauline had married Bert Collins, who had run a restaurant during much of the 1930s. By 1950, they were settled in Detroit and had five children. Unlike Parks’ other classmates who had migrated north in search of opportunity, Pauline (yearbook ambition: “To be young forever; to be a Mrs.”) now had a large family and no longer worked outside the home. In the course of her conversation with Parks, she emphasized the importance of religion in their lives. Parks’ powerful portrait of the couple walking to Sunday services at the Macedonia Baptist Church, Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) reinforces the seriousness of their faith.  The cigar-smoking Bert wears a sharp suit and straw boater and carries a well-worn Bible.

Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. In the end, all that survives, as far as written documentation of the Fort Scott assignment, are Parks’ project notes from his individual visits with his classmates in May and June of 1950; several telegrams sent by Life staffers regarding his friends’ whereabouts before his arrival; fact-checking when the piece was again slated to run in April 1951; and an annotated seven-page draft. Because the photos were never published, and most have never before been on view, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore a body of work that is almost completely unknown to the public.

“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on this exhibition and publication highlighting a series of very personal, early works by the artist” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Foundation’s executive director. “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott allows us a focused look at a single Life magazine story and reveals a fascinating tale of Gordon Parks’ segregated beginnings in rural Kansas and the migration stories of his classmates, many of whom, like him, left in search of better lives for themselves and their families.””

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Columbus, Ohio' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Columbus, Ohio
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The lives of the classmates – six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people – present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”

The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him – very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes – happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.”

Lorraine Madway, curator of Wichita State University’s special collections, said of the Fort Scott story: “There are those moments in an archive when you know you’ve found the gold, and this is one of them. It’s a wonderful example of micro-history. It’s not only that there is so much material written at a specific time in people’s lives, but then there are Parks’s reflections on it later.” …

Besides fact-checking notes, Parks’s own notes and a typewritten draft for what might have been his introduction to the photo spread, there is almost no other documentation surrounding the project, for which Parks shot about 30 rolls of 35-millimeter and medium-format film. And so the question of why it was not published might never be answered. In an essay for the show’s catalog, Ms. Haas speculates that it might have been doomed by its very newsworthiness, as national challenges to school segregation began gathering speed and Life waited – in the end too long – for just the right moment…

Parks carried his own psychic wounds from those years, which profoundly shaped his writing and approach to photography. But his feelings were always bittersweet. Though he lived for many years in New York City, he chose to be buried in his hometown, whose African-American population has declined even more markedly than its overall population. In a 1968 poem about his childhood, he wrote that he would miss “this Kansas land that I was leaving,” one of “wide prairies filled with green and cornstalk,” of the “winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from wings” and “silver September rain.”

Then he added: “Yes, all this I would miss – /along with the fear, hatred and violence/We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.””

Extract from Randy Kennedy. “‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation,” on The New York Times website, December 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/08/2015.
Gordon Parks. 'Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

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14
Jun
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Segregation Story’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 15th November 2014 – 21st June 2015

 

The more I see of this man’s work, the more I admire it.

A sense of history, truth and injustice; a sense of beauty, colour and disenfranchisement; above all, a sense of composition and knowing the right time to take a photograph to tell the story. It’s all there, right in front of us, in almost every photograph. Photographs of institutionalised racism and the American apartheid, “the state of being apart”, laid bare for all to see.

From the languid curl and mass of the red sofa on which Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama (1956) sit, which makes them seem very small and which forms the horizontal plane, intersected by the three generations of family photos from top to bottom – youth, age, family … to the blank stare of the nanny holding the white child while the mother looks on in Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956). I love the amorphous mass of black at the right hand side of the this image. From the neon delightful, downward pointing arrow of ‘Colored Entrance’ in Department Store, Mobile, Alabama (1956) to the ‘WHITE ONLY’ obelisk in At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama (1956). And so the story flows on like some great river, unstoppable, unquenchable…

But then we have two of the most intimate moments of beauty that brings me to tears as I write this, the two photographs at the bottom of the posting Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956). Just look at the light that Parks uses, this drawing with light. And then the use of depth of field, colour, composition (horizontal, vertical and diagonal elements) that leads the eye into these images and the utter, what can you say, engagement – no – quiescent knowingness on the children’s faces (like an old soul in a young body). This is a wondrous thing.

Notice how the photographer has pre-exposed the sheet of film so that the highlights in both images do not blow out. Pre-exposing the film lessens the contrast range allowing shadow detail and highlight areas to be held in balance. Also notice how in both images the photographer lets the eye settle in the centre of the image – in the photograph of the boy, the out of focus stairs in the distance; in the photograph of the three girls, the bonnet of the red car – before he then pulls our gaze back and to the right of the image to let the viewer focus on the faces of his subjects. In both photographs we have vertical elements (a door jam and a telegraph post) coming out of the red colours in the images and this vertically is reinforced in the image of the three girls by the rising ladder of the back of the chair. Masterful image making, this push and pull, this bravura art of creation.

Surely, Gordon Parks ranks up there with the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the High Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Many thanx also to Carlos Eguiguren for sending me his portrait of Gordon Parks taken in New York in 1985, which reveals a wonderful vulnerability within the artist.

 

 

Carlos Eguiguren. 'Gordon Parks, New York' 1985

 

Carlos Eguiguren
Gordon Parks, New York
1985
4 x 5 transparency film
© Carlos Eguiguren

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

This portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton Sr., aged 82 and 70, served as the opening image of Parks’s photo essay. The well-dressed couple stares directly into the camera, asserting their status as patriarch and matriarch of their extensive Southern family. Photography is featured prominently within the image: a framed portrait, made shortly after the couple was married in 1906, hangs on the wall behind them, while family snapshots, including some of the Thorntons’ nine children and nineteen grandchildren, are proudly displayed on the coffee table in the foreground.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia
1956
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Joanne Wilson, one of the Thorntons’ daughters, is shown standing with her niece in front of a department store in downtown Mobile. The pair is impeccably dressed in light, summery frocks. The jarring neon of the “Colored Entrance” sign looming above them clashes with the two young women’s elegant appearance, transforming a casual afternoon outing into an example of overt discrimination. Notice the fallen strap of Wilson’s slip. Though this detail might appear discordant with the rest of the picture, its inclusion may have been strategic: it allowed Parks to emphasize the humanity of his subjects.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

A group of children peers across a chain-link fence into a whites-only playground with a Ferris wheel. Although they had access to a “separate but equal” recreational area in their own neighborhood, this photograph captures the allure of this other, inaccessible space. The children, likely innocent to the cruel implications of their exclusion, longingly reach their hands out to the mysterious and forbidden arena beyond. The pristinely manicured lawn on the other side of the fence contrasts with the overgrowth of weeds in the foreground, suggesting the persistent reality of racial inequality.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

The Jim Crow laws established in the South ensured that public amenities remained racially segregated. These laws applied to schools, public transportation, restaurants, recreational facilities, and even drinking fountains, as shown here. The photograph documents the prevalence of such prejudice, while at the same time capturing a scene of compassion. Here, a gentleman helps one of the young girls reach the fountain to have a refreshing drink of water.

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

“RARE PHOTOS BY GORDON PARKS PREMIERE AT HIGH MUSEUM OF ART

Featuring works created for Parks’ powerful 1956 Life magazine photo essay that have never been publicly exhibited.

The High Museum of Art presents rarely seen photographs by trailblazing African American artist and filmmaker Gordon Parks in Gordon Parks: Segregation Story on view November 15, 2014 through June 21, 2015.

The exhibition, presented in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, features more than 40 of Parks’ color prints – most on view for the first time – created for a powerful and influential 1950s Life magazine article documenting the lives of an extended African-American family in segregated Alabama. The series represents one of Parks’ earliest social documentary studies on color film. The High will acquire 12 of the color prints featured in the exhibition, supplementing the two Parks works – both gelatin silver prints – already owned by the High. These works augment the Museum’s extensive collection of Civil Rights era photography, one of the most significant in the nation.

Following the publication of the Life article, many of the photos Parks shot for the essay were stored away and presumed lost for more than 50 years until they were rediscovered in 2012 (six years after Parks’ death). Though a small selection of these images has been previously exhibited, the High’s presentation brings to light a significant number that have never before been displayed publicly. As the first African-American photographer for Life magazine, Parks published some of the 20th century’s most iconic social justice-themed photo essays and became widely celebrated for his black-and-white photography, the dominant medium of his era. The photographs that Parks created for Life’s 1956 photo essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden are remarkable for their vibrant color and their intimate exploration of shared human experience.

The images provide a unique perspective on one of America’s most controversial periods. Rather than capturing momentous scenes of the struggle for civil rights, Parks portrayed a family going about daily life in unjust circumstances. Parks believed empathy to be vital to the undoing of racial prejudice. His corresponding approach to the Life project eschewed the journalistic norms of the day and represented an important chapter in Parks’ career-long endeavor to use the camera as his “weapon of choice” for social change. The Restraints: Open and Hidden gave Parks his first national platform to challenge segregation. The images he created offered a deeper look at life in the Jim Crow South, transcending stereotypes to reveal a common humanity.

“Parks’ images brought the segregated South to the public consciousness in a very poignant way – not only in color, but also through the eyes of one of the century’s most influential documentarians,” said Brett Abbott, exhibition curator and Keough Family curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “To present these works in Atlanta, one of the centers of the Civil Rights Movement, is a rare and exciting opportunity for the High. It is also a privilege to add Parks’ images to our collection, which will allow the High to share his unique perspective with generations of visitors to come.”
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A Day in the Life

For The Restraints: Open and Hidden, Parks focused on the everyday activities of the related Thornton, Causey and Tanner families in and near Mobile, Ala. The images present scenes of Sunday church services, family gatherings, farm work, domestic duties, child’s play, window shopping and at-home haircuts – all in the context of the restraints of the Jim Crow South.

Key images in the exhibition include:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama (1956)
  • Department Store, Mobile Alabama (1956)
  • Airline Terminal, Atlanta, Georgia (1956)
  • Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956)
    .

About Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. He grew up poor and faced racial discrimination. Parks was initially drawn to photography as a young man after seeing images of migrant workers published in a magazine, which made him realize photography’s potential to alter perspective. Parks became a self-taught photographer after purchasing his first camera at a pawnshop, and he honed his skills during a stint as a society and fashion photographer in Chicago. After earning a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his gritty photographs of that city’s South Side, the Farm Security Administration hired Parks in the early 1940s to document the current social conditions of the nation.

By 1944, Parks was the only black photographer working for Vogue, and he joined Life magazine in 1948 as the first African-American staff photographer. In 1970, Parks co-founded Essence magazine and served as the editorial director for the first three years of its publication. Parks later became Hollywood’s first major black director when he released the film adaptation of his autobiographical novel The Learning Tree, for which he also composed the musical score, however he is best known as the director of the 1971 hit movie Shaft. Parks received the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and received more than 50 honorary doctorates over the course of his career. He died in 2006.
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About The Gordon Parks Foundation

The Gordon Parks Foundation permanently preserves the work of Gordon Parks, makes it available to the public through exhibitions, books, and electronic media and supports artistic and educational activities that advance what Gordon described as “the common search for a better life and a better world.” The Foundation is a division of The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Store Front, Mobile Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Store Front, Mobile Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Willie Causey, Jr., with Gun During Violence in Alabama, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Collection of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama' 1956

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Black Classroom, Shady Grove, Alabama
1956
Promised gift of The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Although this photograph was taken in the 1950s, the wood-paneled interior, with a wood-burning stove at its center, is reminiscent of an earlier time. Parks’s photograph of the segregated schoolhouse, here emptied of its students, evokes both the poetic and prosaic: springtime sunlight streams through the missing slats on the doors, while scraps of paper, rope, and other detritus litter the uneven floorboards. One of the Thorntons’ daughters, Allie Lee Causey, taught elementary-grade students in this dilapidated, four-room structure. After Parks’s article was published in Life, Mrs. Causey, who was quoted speaking out against segregation, was suspended from her job. She never held a teaching position again.

 

 

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09
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument’ at The New Orleans Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2013 – 12th January 2014

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Another great photographer with a social conscience. Fantastic to observe the dynamics of the proof sheets and how the images were cropped for final publication. The angles, the angles of Red’s young brother are illuminating, to see how the photographer framed his subject, what worked, what didn’t. There is a relatively new boxed set of the complete works of this artist published by Stiedl titled Gordon Parks Collected Works (2012). Reasonably priced for a five volume set, I think this would be a must buy for any aficionado of his work.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The New Orleans Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

“”The Making of an Argument” evaluates the editorial decisions made by the magazine and, in doing so, comments on how the context in which a picture is presented can drastically alter its message. “In order to meet the expectations set up by the subtitle and the opening text, an overwhelming majority of the pictures selected underscore violence, fear, frustration, aggression, or despair. Of the twenty-one images reproduced, only five strike a lighter note,” writes Russell Lord, the curator of photographs at NOMA. Lord also notes that the ways the images were cropped and darkened further functioned to convey the magazine’s intended message.”

Genevieve Fussell on The New Yorker website

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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This image shows both the full frame image that Gordon Parks shot and the cropped selection, framed in editor’s marking pen, that was ultimately published in Life magazine. The cropped version dramatically heightens the intensity of the image, bringing the viewer closer to the fight (see proof sheet below).

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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The opening spread of "Harlem Gang Leader," Life, November 1, 1948

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The opening spread of “Harlem Gang Leader,” Life, November 1, 1948

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“This exhibition explores the making of Gordon Parks’ first photographic essay for Life magazine in 1948, “Harlem Gang Leader.” After gaining the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, Parks produced a series of photographs that are artful, poignant, and, at times, shocking. From this large body of work (Parks made hundreds of negatives) the editors at Life selected twenty-one pictures to print in the magazine, often cropping or enhancing details in the pictures in the process. Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument traces this editorial process and parses out the various voices and motives behind the production of the picture essay.

The exhibition considers Parks’ photographic practice within a larger discussion about photography as a narrative device. Featuring vintage photographs, original issues of Life magazine, contact sheets, and proof prints, the exhibition raises important questions about the role of photography in addressing social concerns, its use as a documentary tool, and its function in the world of publishing…

“This project raises important questions about the role of photography in addressing social concerns, its use as a documentary tool, and its function in the world of publishing,” said Susan M. Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “We are delighted to be working with The Gordon Parks Foundation on this exhibition since it is a project that addressed many of the major issues that Parks would explore throughout his career.”

In 1948, Gordon Parks began a professional relationship with Life magazine that would last twenty-two years. For his first project, he proposed a series of pictures about the gang wars that were then plaguing Harlem, believing that if he could draw attention to the problem then perhaps it would be addressed through social programs or government intervention. As a result of his efforts, Parks gained the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, and produced a series of pictures of them that are artful, emotive, poignant, touching, and sometimes shocking. From this larger body of work, twenty-one pictures were selected for reproduction in a graphic and adventurous layout in Life magazine.

At each step of the selection process – as Parks chose each shot, or as the picture editors at Life re-selected from his selection – any intended narrative was complicated by another curatorial voice. Curator Russell Lord notes, “By the time the reader opened the pages of Life magazine, the addition of text, and the reader’s own biases further rendered the original argument into a fractured, multi-layered affair. The process leads to many questions: ‘What was the intended argument?’ and ‘Whose argument was it?’.”

Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument examines these questions through a close study of how Parks’ first Life picture essay was conceived, constructed and received.”

Press release from the NOMA website

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled, Harlem, New York' 1948

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Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled, Harlem, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation

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The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA 70124
T: (504) 658-4100

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

The New Orleans Museum of Art website

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16
Oct
13

‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

Kodachrome sheets 1941 – 1943

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-43. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, below) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″x5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

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Alfred Palmer
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

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Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.

October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(Alfred Palmer/LOC)

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Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred T. Palmer 1906 – 1993

“Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasize a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognized by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare color transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm color film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.”

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website

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kodachrome-WEB

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A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

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Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

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Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

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Alfred Palmer
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4×5 Kodachrome transparency
(LOC)

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Alfred T. Palmer website

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15
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: 100 Moments’ at New York State Museum

Exhibition dates: 26th January – 19th May 2013

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The more I see the work of this outstanding artist, the more I fall in love with it. There is just a beautiful lyricism here – nothing extraneous or superfluous within the picture frame, sensitively balanced photographs that are whimsical and engaging. A woman and her dog in Harlem, NY, 1943 (below) is just a joy.

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Many thankx to the New York State Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gordon Parks. 'A dance group, Frederick Douglass housing project, Anacostia, Washington, DC, 1942' 1942

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Gordon Parks
A dance group, Frederick Douglass housing project, Anacostia, Washington, DC, 1942
1942
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USF34- 013381-C
17.5″ x 22″

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Gordon Parks. 'A woman and her dog in Harlem, NY, 1943' 1943

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Gordon Parks
A woman and her dog in Harlem, NY, 1943
1943
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USW3-024045-E
23″ x 21″

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Gordon Parks. 'Street Scene: Three young boys, Harlem, NY, 1943' 1943

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Gordon Parks
Street Scene: Three young boys, Harlem, NY, 1943
1943
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USW3-023992-E
23″ x 21″

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Gordon Parks. 'Street Scene: Two children walking, Harlem, NY, 1943' 1943

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Gordon Parks
Street Scene: Two children walking, Harlem, NY, 1943
1943
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USW3-023994-E
23″ x 21″

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“A new exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of world-renowned photographer Gordon Parks opens on January 26, 2013 at the New York State Museum. Gordon Parks: 100 Moments showcases six decades of Parks’ photographs, including numerous never-before-seen images and Parks’ most famous photo, American Gothic, Washington, D.C. On display at the State Museum through May 19, 2013, the stunning visual collection is organized by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The exhibit also includes images from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (OWI) collections at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

“Gordon Parks was a true Renaissance man – musician, writer, film director and, most notably, world-class photographer,” said State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. “His work helped drive the Civil Rights movement by exposing the stark realities of life faced by so many African Americans. We are honored to exhibit some of his most important images at the New York State Museum.”

“The State Museum is honored to present this landmark exhibition by Gordon Parks, one of New York’s greatest photographers,” said State Museum Director Mark Schaming. “This is truly a unique opportunity to see these powerful images from the Schomburg’s vast collections together in a beautifully curated exhibition.”

Known for documenting the ordinary yet compelling lives of African Americans in cities like Harlem and Washington, D.C., Parks began his career in 1948 as a professional photographer for Life magazine, where he was the publication’s first African American employee. Tackling issues in black communities like post-World War II urban migration, the expansion of black newspapers and radio, entrenched segregation and economic discrimination, Parks was a consummate storyteller of urban life through his ever-questioning lens. Parks died in 2006.”

Press releae from the New York State Museum website

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Gordon Parks. 'Policeman, badge no. 19687, NY, 1943' 1943

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Gordon Parks
Policeman, badge no. 19687, NY, 1943
1943
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-DIG-FSA-8d28522
23″ x 21″

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Gordon Parks. 'Boy at Swimming Pool, Harlem, NY, 1942' 1942

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Gordon Parks
Boy at Swimming Pool, Harlem, NY, 1942
1942
Gordon Parks Collection, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
22″ x 17.5″

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Gordon Parks. 'Grandfather and grandchild on Seaton Road, Washington, DC, 1942' 1942

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Gordon Parks
Grandfather and grandchild on Seaton Road, Washington, DC, 1942
1942
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USF34-013318-C
21″ x 17″

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Gordon Parks. 'First Aid: Interracial activities at Camp Nathan Hale, Southfields, NY, 1943' 1943

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Gordon Parks
First Aid: Interracial activities at Camp Nathan Hale, Southfields, NY, 1943
1943
Gordon Parks Collection, Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library
22″ x 17.5″

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Gordon Parks. 'Construction workman, Washington, DC, 1942' 1942

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Gordon Parks
Construction workman, Washington, DC, 1942
1942
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USF34- 013352-C
21″ x 17″

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New York State Museum
260 Madison Ave  Albany
NY 12230, United States
T: +1 518-474-5877

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 9:.0 am – 5.00 pm
Closed Mondays
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

New York State Museum website

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16
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Centennial’ at Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 27th April 2013

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What an admirable photographer Gordon Parks was. It is a joy to see five of his colour photographs in this posting because I have never seen any before. They are glorious, complex compositions that ebb and flow like music whilst at the same time they are also damning indictments of the racially segregated society that was America in the 1950s. The little girl looks on in Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping (1956, below), her left index finger bent upward on the pane of glass as the prettily dressed white, automaton mannequins march on, oblivious to her gaze; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama  (1956, below) are surrounded by photographs, their pose mimicking that of their parents hanging behind them, while before them on the coffee table (under glass) are other, younger members of their extended family. Past, present and future coalesce in this one poignant image.

The sensibility of Parks photographs is a refined sensitivity based on experience. “Sensibility” is based on personal impressions of pleasure or pain. These are hard-wired responses that will vary from person to person. The discrimination of men towards each other mattered to Parks, this was his hard-wired response. This was his feeling towards subject matter and that is why these wonderful photographs still matter to us today.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Jenkins Johnson Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.

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Dr Henry Louis Gates

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Gordon Parks. 'Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-shopping, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 19 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Department Store, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 20 of 25
Pigment print
14 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mother and Children, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
13 7/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama' 1956

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Gordon Parks
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama
1956
Edition 17 of 25
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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In celebration of the 100th birthday of Gordon Parks, one of the most influential African American photographers of the 20th century, Jenkins Johnson Gallery in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation presents Gordon Parks: Centennial, on view from February 21 through April 27, 2013. Gordon Parks, an iconic photographer, writer, composer, and filmmaker, would have turned 100 on November 30, 2012. This will be the first solo exhibition for Parks on the West Coast in thirteen years. The exhibition will survey works spanning six decades of the artist’s career starting in 1940. The exhibition consists of more than seventy-five gelatin silver and pigment prints, including selections from Life magazine photo essays: Invisible Man, 1952; Segregation Story, 1956; The Black Panthers, 1970; and Flavio, 1960, about favelas in Brazil. Also included in the exhibition is his reinterpretation of American Gothic and his elegant depictions of artists like Alexander Calder, fashion models, and movie stars.

Noteworthy highlights include groundbreaking prints from the Invisible Man series which unfolds a visual narrative based on Ralph Ellison’s award winning novel. The images capture the essence of social isolation and the struggle of a black man who feels invisible to the outside world. Also on view will be a number of color prints from Segregation Story, 1956, which are a part of a limited edition portfolio of twelve color photographs with an essay by Maurice Berger. Newly released, these images were produced from transparencies found in early 2012, discovered in a storage box at The Gordon Parks Foundation. In the late 1960s Life magazine asked Gordon Parks to report on the Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party, including Eldridge Cleaver. Parks’ striking image of Eldridge Cleaver and His Wife, Kathleen, Algiers, Algeria, 1970 depicts Cleaver recovering from gun wounds after being ambushed by the Oakland police as well as an insert of Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the party along with Bobby Seale.

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About Gordon Parks

Parks was born into poverty in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912, the youngest of fifteen children. He worked several odd jobs until he bought a camera at a Pawn Shop in 1937 in Seattle and was hired to photograph fashion at a department store in Minneapolis. In 1942 Parks received a photography fellowship from the Farm Security Administration, succeeding Dorothea Lange among others. While at the F.S.A., Parks created American Gothic, now known as one of his signature images, in which he shows Ella Watson, a cleaning women, holding a mop and broom, standing in front of an American flag. The image makes a poignant commentary on social injustice whilst referencing Grant Wood’s celebrated painting American Gothic which it is also named after. He became a freelance photographer working for Vogue as well as publishing two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (1948). In 1948 Parks was hired by Life magazine to do a photographic essay on Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson, which led to a permanent position at Life, where he worked for twenty years. Parks developed his skills as a composer and author and in 1969 he became the first African American to direct a major motion picture, The Learning Tree based on his best selling novel and in 1971 he directed Shaft. A true Renaissance man, Gordon Parks passed away in 2006.

As Philip Brookman, curator of photography and media arts at the Corcoran, states, “Gordon Parks’ art has now changed the way we perceive and remember chronic issues, such as race, poverty, and crime, just as it has influenced our understanding of beauty: of nature, landscape, childhood, fashion, and memory.”

Press release from the Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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Gordon Parks. 'Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Norman Fontenelle, Sr., Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
13 x 9 1/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Ellen's Feet, Harlem, New York' 1967

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Gordon Parks
Ellen’s Feet, Harlem, New York
1967
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 9 3/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Mysticism, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Mysticism, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1949

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Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Fort Scott, Kansas
1949
Gelatin silver print
7 x 9 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
Harlem Neighborhood, Harlem, New York
1952
Gelatin silver print
10 3/8 x 13 1/2 inches
Vintage print

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Gordon Parks. 'Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada' 1945

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Gordon Parks
Drugstore Cowboys, Turner Valley, Canada
1945
Gelatin silver print
9 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches
Modern print

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Gordon Parks. 'The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York' 1952

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Gordon Parks
The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York
1952
Edition 1 of 10
Pigment print
14 1/8 x 14 inches
Modern print

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Jenkins Johnson Gallery
464 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
T: 415.677.0770

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm

Jenkins Johnson Gallery website

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05
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks’ at the Phoenix Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 20th August – 6th November 2011

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Many thankx to the Phoenix Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gordon Parks
Children with Doll (Ella Watson’s Grandchildren)
1942
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Ingrid Bergman at Stromboli
1949
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Black Muslim Rally
New York, 1963
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Alberto Giacometti, Paris
1951
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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“Gordon Parks spent the majority of his professional career at the crossroads of the glamorous and the ghetto – two extremes the noted photographer knew well.  Perhaps best recognized for his works chronicling the African-American experience, Parks was also an accomplished fashion photographer. Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks provides a revealing look at the diversity and breadth of Parks’s most potent imagery. Featuring 73 works specifically selected by Parks for the photographic collection of the Los Angeles-based Capital Group, Bare Witness divulges heart wrenching images, iconic moments, celebrities and slices of everyday life.

Born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks, who died in 2006 at age 93, was an African American photographer who began working professionally in the 1930’s. Parks tackled the harsh truth and dignity of the black urban and rural poor in the United States. He photographed aspects of the Civil Rights movements and individuals associated with the Black Panthers and Black Muslims. For nearly 25 years, from 1948 to 1972, he served as staff photographer for Life magazine. He also established himself as a foremost fashion photographer, providing spreads for respected magazines such as Vogue.

Bare Witness features many of Parks’s most memorable images such as “American Gothic.” Taken during Parks’s brief time with the Farm Security Agency, the photograph depicts a black cleaning woman named Ella Watson standing stiffly in front of an American flag, a mop in one hand and a broom in the other. Also included in the exhibition is a series of photos from Parks’s most famous Life magazine essay about Flavio da Silva, a malnourished and asthmatic boy living in a Rio de Janerio slum. Portraits of Muhammad Ali, Duke Ellington, Alexander Calder, Ingrid Bergman, Langston Hughes and Malcolm X among others will also be on view.

“Whether photographing celebrities or common folk, children or the elderly, Harlem gang leaders or fellow artists, Parks brought his straightforward, sympathetic ear and mind to bear witness to late 20th century civilization,” commented Hilarie Faberman, the Robert M. and Ruth L. Halperin Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Cantor Arts Center and organizer of the exhibition. “His photographs balance the dichotomies of black and white, rich and poor, revealing his strengths and struggles as an artist and a man.”

In addition to his documentary and fashion photography, Parks was a filmmaker, author, musician and publisher. He was the first black artist to produce and direct a major Hollywood film, “The Learning Tree” in 1969, which was based on his early life experiences. He subsequently directed the popular action films “Shaft” and “Shaft’s Big Score.” He was a founder and editorial director of Essence magazine and wrote several autobiographies, novels and poems. In 1988, he received the National Medal of Arts award and throughout his lifetime was the recipient of 40 honorary doctorates from colleges and universities in the United States and England.

“Parks was a renaissance man whose career embodied the American ideal of equality and whose art was deeply personal. This exhibition is an exciting opportunity for Museum visitors to experience the poignant images he made over five decades,” commented Rebecca Senf, Norton Curator of Photography, Phoenix Art Museum.

The exhibition includes an illustrated catalogue with an essay by photography scholar Maren Stange who writes frequently on modern American culture. This exhibition has already enjoyed a five-venue tour, where the photographs were received with great excitement. The exhibition has been revived for a final showing at the Phoenix Art Museum. Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks was organized by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are made possible by generous support from The Capital Group Foundation, the Cantor Arts Center’s Hohbach Family Fund, and Cantor Arts Center’s Members.”

Press release from the Phoenix Museum of Art website

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Gordon Parks
American Gothic
1942
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott
1949
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Muhammad Ali
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Gordon Parks
Muhammad Ali
1970
Cibachrome
20 x 16 inches
Lent by The Capitol Group Foundation, 2002.05.
© 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

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Phoenix Art Museum
McDowell Road & Central Avenue
1625 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday, Museum closed
Wednesday, 10am-9pm (Free admission/voluntary donation every Wednesday, 3-9pm)
Thursday-Saturday, 10am-5pm
Sunday, 12pm-5pm

Phoenix Art Museum website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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