Wednesday, March 08, 2006

RIP Gordon Parks

This is a repost from a friend of mine on Myspace. Gordon Parks was a truly talented photographer and filmmaker. This is tragic:

Gordon Parks looked like an artist.With his shock of white hair, grand mustache and seemingly ever-present pipe, Parks was a 20th-century Renaissance man. He worked as a photojournalist, fashion photographer, filmmaker, composer, novelist, poet and painter.

But Parks, who died Tuesday at age 93, was best known for his compassionate yet gritty 1940s documentary photography of the lives of black Americans - first with the post-Depression Farm Services Administration and then with Life magazine. At the same time, he was shooting high fashion for Vogue magazine as a contemporary of the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.

He also was a film pioneer, becoming the first African-American to direct a film for a major studio in 1969. The Learning Tree, a drama, was based on his 1963 autobiographical novel about growing up in Kansas in the 1920s. He also wrote the script and the score.

In a considerable departure, Parks' next movie was Shaft. The 1971 hit starring Richard Roundtree as hip detective John Shaft is considered a classic of the blaxploitation genre. And it of course featured the catchy theme song by Isaac Hayes, which won an Academy Award. He made several more films, including Shaft sequel Shaft's Big Score.

In 1998, the Parks photographic retrospective Half Past Autumn was mounted and toured the country for years. In 2000, it attracted "flocks" of visitors to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, says executive director Charmaine Jefferson. A former New York City cultural affairs commissioner and head of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, she says she spent a memorable evening with Parks listening to music he composed for a ballet.

She says he will go down as "one of the great photographers of our time" but also will be remembered for his music, his writing, his films, even his costumes. "He was so multitalented," she says. "He could do it all. And we were so proud of him."

Parks himself was always striving. In a 1998 interview with PBS' Newshour, he said: "My life to me is like sort of a disjointed dream. ... It was a constant effort, a constant feeling that I must not fail, and I still have that. ... There's another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it."

View a beautiful picture of him:

View a beautiful picture by him:

Gordon Park's famous works:


Camera Portraits (1948) (Documentary)
The Learning Tree (1964) (Semi Autobiographical)
A Choice of Weapons (1967) (autobiographical)
Born Black (1970) (Compilation of essays and photographs)
To Smile in Autumn (1979) (autobiographical)
Voices in the Mirror (1990) (autobiographical)
The Sun Stalker (2003) (Biography on J.M.W. Turner)
A Hungry Heart (Nov. 1, 2005) (autobiographical)

Compilations of poetry and photography

Gordon Parks: A Poet and His Camera
Gordon Parks: Whispers of Intimate Things
Gordon Parks: In Love, Moments Without Proper Names
Arias of Silence
Glimpses Toward Infinity
Eyes With Winged Thoughts (released Nov. 1, 2005)


Flavio ( 1961)
Diary of a Harlem Family (1964)
The World of Piri Thomas (1968)
The Learning Tree (1969)
Shaft (1971)
Shaft's Big Score (1972) Director and Composer
The Super Cops (1974)
Leadbelly (1976)
Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984)


Moments Without Proper Names (1987)
Martin (1989) (ballet about Martin Luther King)
Shaft's Big Score

What do you have to give to the world?


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