The bold street photography of Gordon Parks

Born in 1912, Gordon Parks excelled as a fashion photographer, composer, screenwriter, and director (he helmed the 1971 classic Shaft).

But it’s arguably his street portraits that really resonate—like the one above, “A Woman and Her Dog in Harlem New York 1943” and below, “Harlem Neighborhood, New York City” (1952).

Impressed by photos of migrant workers he saw when he was in his 20s, Parks bought a second-hand camera, taught himself to shoot, and soon set up a business doing portraits in Chicago.

He became one of the most prominent photographers of the 20th century, depicting workers and servicemen for government agencies, doing fashion spreads for Vogue, and chronicling race relations and the Civil Rights movement on staff at Life magazine.

Below: “Three Boys Who Live in the Harlem Area,” 1943

His ordinary images of the men, women, and children of Harlem and other city neighborhoods still pack an emotional punch. They freeze in time moments of triumph, uncertainty, and loneliness.

Above: Fulton Fish Market, 1943

Two current exhibits celebrate Parks: one at the International Center for Photography and the other at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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5 Responses to “The bold street photography of Gordon Parks”

  1. Newport Carl Says:

    Wonderful posting, I really enjoyed it!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! Parks captures so much in his subjects’ faces…

  3. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    Just fantastic! I have always admired the clarity and crispness of Parks’ photographs. The deepest backgrounds are in superb focus. Even raindrops splattering on the pavement seem to have individual identities. Thanks for these!

  4. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    By the way, here is an undated postcard of the RKO Alhambra on 7th Avenue off 126th Street. I wonder when the marquee that shows up in Parks’ photo was installed.

  5. Reminder: Gordon Parks Was Cooler Than YouYou’re probably... - The Deadline Says:

    […] probably familiar with the work of Gordon Parks, whether it’s his photography (over a decade documenting America and Americans, years of fashion photography for Vogue, portraits for Life ), his film-making (Shaft, The Learning […]

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