People

Gordon Parks. Protest

With the slaughter of George Floyd, America has finally erupted. Peaceful protests and barricades fuse into a jumble of broken bottles and swinging batons, rubber bullets and store fires.

These crowd-filled, burning streets could be streets from the Sixties. For those of us who weren’t there, Sixties flashbacks come via the images of brave photographers of the time, photographers like Gordon Parks.

Parks – born 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas – was the first black photographer at Life Magazine. He often shot at great personal risk. “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs,” he said in 1999. “I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

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Gordon Parks. Harlem, New York. 1963

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Parks’ photos jumped out in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2017 From The Collection: 1960-1969 exhibit of more than 350 works. The curators had gathered a selection of MOMA’s Sixties collection into a year by year exhibit on the 4th floor. The Sixties was a time, we read, when: ‘Artistic changes paralleled sociopolitical upheavals around the globe, and these seismic shifts reach to the present moment.’

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Gordon Parks. Black Muslim Rally. Harlem. New York. 1963

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Gordon Parks. Harlem Rally. 1963

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Gordon Parks. Malcolm X Gives Speech at Rally, Harlem, New York. 1963

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Other protest-related artworks at MOMA’s Sixties exhibit included:

Daniel LaRue Johnson. Freedom Now, Number 1 1963-64

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Rudolf Schwarzkogler. 1st Action. 1965

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Öyvind Fahlström. Mao-Hope March. 1966

Mao-Hope March

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Mason Williams. Bus. 1967

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Faith Ringgold. American People Series #20. 1967

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. Student Demonstrations. Paris. 1968

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. Demolition of the Barricades, Rue des Saint Peres, Paris. 1968

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Last Word > Gordon Parks

In his 1990 book: Voices in the Mirror: An Autobiography, Parks  – who died in 2006 – wrote: ‘The question frequently asked of me is why I have undertaken so many professions – photography, writing, musical composition and film. At first I wasn’t sure that I had the talent for any of them, but I did know I had an intense fear of failure, and that fear compelled me to fight off anything that might abet it – bigotry, hatred, discrimination, poverty or hunger. I suffered those evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand. They came. I bottled them up inside me, closed them off and went on doing what I had to do.’

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Gordon Parks. Harlem. 1943

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www.creatorsvancouver.com

 

Header: Gordon Parks. Harlem, New York. 1963

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