Goodbye to Gordon Parks

Novelist, self-taught pianist, semi-pro basketball player, composer, director of Shaft–and somehow he still found time to be a groundbreaking photojournalist at Life for more than 20 years. I didn’t know the name Gordon Parks before he passed away yesterday at age 93, but since then I’ve learned a bit about his amazing and far-reaching life. The NYT offers an overview and slideshow; NPR features an audio report from Parks’ 90th birthday; and PDN hosts a gallery of his work with accompanying text. His life spoke to the transformative power of photography, and to the idea of “Not allowing anyone to set boundaries, cutting loose the imagination and then making the new horizons.”

0 thoughts on “Goodbye to Gordon Parks

  1. One of my heroes passed away this week, Gordon Parks. The only reason I got into this artsy-fartsy lifestyle is because of the obstacles that he had to overcome to achieve success.
    When I was growing up in the 50s, there were not a lot of role models unless you were into sports. After I got out of high school, like most kids, I had no ideal what I wanted to do. So I went to the State Employment office and took a barrage of test to see what I was qualified to do, and career options. The results came back and I amazed my self. Never had a clue I was that talented, since I did Cs & Ds all through school. THE PLOT THICKENS! The “colored guy” who was in charge of getting me on a career path, gave me the good news. He was going to put me in a special program for gifted kids on the way up. Since we was a “brother of color” he was going to “pull some strings” to get me in the program.
    Then he goes through his card file and tells me to take a job as a janitor at a local furniture store until the position opens. I might have had a terminal case of naivete, but at 17 I knew bullshit when I heard it. If I went along with his program, I would still have a bucket and mop, and living in the housing projects watching the “Jerry Springer Show.”
    I was pissed off for a couple of weeks until I met a local photographer in our community who use to give seminars at the drug store where we use to hang out. He explained something to me that my father had tried to get through since I was in diapers. If you want to be successful in life you have to know the difference between dog droppings and rose petals. Some you leave alone, some you pick up.
    To cut to the chaise he told me about Gordon Parks who started with a camera he bought in a pawnshop, and became a photographer for Life Magazine. So if I owe anyone the spiritual support for changing my life, it has to be Mr. Parks.
    Mac McAllister

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