Academic journal article Afterimage

Gordon Parks: 1912-2006

Academic journal article Afterimage

Gordon Parks: 1912-2006

Article excerpt

Gordon Parks, whose contributions to American culture spanned several decades and numerous genres, passed away at his home in New York City on March 7, 2006. He was ninety-three years old.

Born in the tiny plains town of Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, Parks was the youngest of fifteen siblings. After the passing of his mother, fifteen-year-old Parks was sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with his sister, but soon found himself on his own after his brother-in-law expelled him from their home. Parks supported himself by taking several different jobs, including playing piano at a hotel. His talent drew the attention of a touring band's leader who asked him to join the group. When the tour ended and the band broke up, Parks found work as a railroad porter.

Parks saw the country by rail, and in 1937 he purchased his first camera in a Seattle pawnshop. He returned to St. Paul to pursue fashion photography, later moving to Chicago at the suggestion of the wife of boxer Joe Louis, who saw some of Park's photos in a St. Paul store. It was in Chicago that he began documenting the African American experience, work that led to a job with the Farm Security Administration along with some of America's greatest documentary photographers. …

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