Wednesday, March 08, 2006

In Memorium, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks
Born: Fort Scott, Kansas, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: photographer
Occupation: movie director
Occupation: writer
Occupation: composer

... "In January 1942, [Parks] went to work in Washington, D.C., for Roy Emerson Stryker in the photography section of the Farm Security Administration [FSA], where he joined some of the finest documentary photographers in the country.

Parks took one of his most significant photographs on his first day in the nation's capital. He called it "American Gothic, Washington, D.C.," a portrait of Mrs. Ella Watson, a black woman who had mopped floors for the government all her life, posed with a mop and broom in front of an American flag. After a day of facing racial prejudice in restaurants and stores, Parks was angry when he took the photo. As the first black in the FSA, Parks did all he could to break down racial barriers, and he had the full support of his boss, Roy Stryker. While at the FSA, Parks took documentary photographs of everyday life. He spoke of his camera as if it were a weapon, "I had known poverty firsthand, but there I learned how to fight its evil—along with the evil of racism — with a camera."

After the FSA disbanded in 1943, Parks worked as a correspondent for the Office of War Information, where he taught himself about "writing to the point." One of his assignments was photographing the training of the first unit of black fighter pilots, the 332nd Fighter Group. Prohibited from accompanying them to Europe and documenting their participation in the war effort, Parks left in disgust and moved back to Harlem. In New York, he attempted to land a position with a major fashion magazine. The Hearst Organization, publisher of Harper's Bazaar, would not hire a black man." ...


E L L A W A T S O N , U. S. G O V E R N M E N T C H A R W O M A N

Photographer: Gordon Parks
Washington, D.C., July and August 1942
Farm Security Administration, Lot 156

Photo credit: American Memory Project. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. fsahtml/fachap07.html


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