Gordon Parks

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006) was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft. At the age of 25, Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and bought his first camera, a Voigtländer Brillant, for $12.50 at a pawnshop. The photo clerks who developed Parks' first roll of film, applauded his work and prompted him to get a fashion assignment at Frank Murphy's women's clothing store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Those photos caught the eye of Marva Louis, the elegant wife of the heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. She encouraged Parks to move to Chicago in 1940, where he began a portrait business for society women. Over the next few years, Parks moved from job to job, developing a freelance portrait and fashion photographer sideline. He began to chronicle the city's South Side black ghetto and in 1941, an exhibition of those photographs won Parks a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration(FSA).

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