Multi-Faceted Photo Journalist: Gordon Parks

Topics: Gordon Parks, Malcolm X, Life Pages: 7 (2495 words) Published: November 13, 2005
Name: Gordon Parks
Birth Date: November 30, 1912
Place of Birth: Fort Scott, Kansas, United States of America Nationality: American
Ethnicity: African American
Gender: Male
Occupations: photographer, composer, filmmaker, writer
Julius Rosenwald Award for photography, 1942; Syracuse University School of Journalism Award, 1961; Frederic W. Brehm Award, 1962; Newhouse Citation, Syracuse University, 1963; Philadelphia Museum of Art Award, 1964; New York Art Directors Club Award, 1964, 1968; Carr Van Anda Journalism Award, University of Miami, 1964; NCCJ Award, 1964; Notable Book Award, American Literary Association, 1966; Emmy Award for Diary of A Harlem Family, 1968; Carr Van Anda Journalism Award, Ohio University, 1970; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Spingarn Medal, 1972; Library of Congress National Film Registry Classics for The Learning Tree, 1982; President?s Fellow, Rhode Island School of Design, 1984; American Society Magazine Award, 1985; National Medal of the Arts, 1988; National Association of Black Journalists, Journalism Hall of Fame, 1990; Photographic Society of America, Progress Medal, 1992.

Multi−faceted photojournalist, Gordon Parks (born 1912), documented many of the greatest images of the 20th century. He expanded his artistic pursuits from visual images to literature with his first novel, The Learning Tree, which he then adapted into an award−winning motion picture. Over the years, his works have included musical composition, orchestration, and poetry. The limit of Parks' talent remains to be discovered as he evolves with characteristic grace into the era of digital photography. Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas on November 30, 1912. He was the youngest of 15 siblings, the children of Andrew and Sarah (Ross) Jackson Parks. The rumor survives, more than eight decades later, that Parks was born dead. In what must have seemed a miracle, the attending physician was able to revive the infant. The physician, Dr. Gordon, acquired a namesake in the process. The Parks family members were victims of extreme poverty. Andrew Parks was a dirt farmer whose wife passed away when Gordon was only 15. Following the death of Sarah Parks, members of the Parks family dispersed, and Gordon went to St. Paul, Minnesota to stay with an older sister. In St. Paul he attended Central High and Mechanical Arts High School, but the hardships of adult life set in before he received a diploma. Parks had failed to establish a congenial relationship with his brother−in−law. Thus, life became difficult. The relationship grew increasingly strained until Parks abruptly left his sister's household. Still in high school and jobless, he carried few belongings with him into the frigid Minnesota winter. He survived by taking odd jobs and tried to finish his education, but soon dropped out and drifted in search of work.

Even as a very young child, Parks sensed his own gift of music. As a youngster, he played an old Kimball piano whenever he could find the time. He was, in fact, able to pick and play most instruments that crossed his path. That innate sense of music enabled Parks to secure work as a piano player, albeit in the setting of a brothel. In time Parks joined the Larry Funk Orchestra and went on tour until the band dissolved in New York, at which point he found himself in Harlem and jobless once again. Parks joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 and used that employment to return to Minnesota, where he married Sally Alvis. In 1935 Parks went to work for the railroad. Parks was a porter on the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 1930s when he purchased a 35mm camera, a Voightlander Brilliant, from a pawn shop in Seattle. He carried the $10 camera to Puget Sound and shot some pictures of seagulls. Those first pictures were impressive, and they were on display at the developer's shop within weeks. Soon Parks...
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