Happy Creativity Thursday!

Today, I am honoring Black History Month by celebrating the creativity and 100th birthday anniversary of Gordan Roger Alexander Buchannan Parks (November 30, 1912 — March 7, 2006), an African-American activist, composer, film director, journalist, musician, novelist, poet, and photographer. What a Renaissance man!

Gordan Parks
Gordan Parks

Parks made history in 1948 when LIFE magazine hired him as their first African-American staff photographer. Another history making moment occurred in 1969 when he became the first African-American artist to produce and direct a major Hollywood film, “The Learning Tree.”

Photo Credit: Gordan Parks for LIFE Magazine
Photo Credit: Gordan Parks for LIFE Magazine

I discovered him through his LIFE photo essays and work as the director of the 1971 film “Shaft.”

Gordan Parks' Shaft film
Gordan Parks’ Shaft film

I fell in love with his photographs of D.C. street scenes in the 1940s, the Black Muslim women from the Nation of Islam (1963), and Malcolm X.

Photo Credit: Gordan Parks - Street Corner, 7th Street and Florida Avenue, Washington, D.C., 1942. (Courtesy Library of Congress/ICP)
Photo Credit: Gordan Parks – Street Corner, 7th Street and Florida Avenue, Washington, D.C., 1942. (Courtesy Library of Congress/ICP)
Photo Credit: Gordon Parks - Ethel Sharrieff, daughter of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. Chicago, 1963
Photo Credit: Gordon Parks – Ethel Sharrieff, daughter of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. Chicago, 1963
Photo Credit: Gordan Parks - Malcolm X in Chicago, IL in 1963
Photo Credit: Gordan Parks – Malcolm X in Chicago, IL in 1963

In 1997, I had a chance to see Parks’ work when the Corcoran  Gallery of Art mounted a career retrospective, Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks. Click here to watch a video of the Half Past Autumn (1 hour 29 minutes).

Photo Credit: Gordon Parks
Photo Credit: Gordon Parks

To learn more about Parks, read his memoirs, A Hungry Heart: A Memoir  and To Smile in Autumn.

Gordon Parks memoir
Gordon Parks memoir
Gordan Parks' memoir
Gordan Parks’ memoir

For additional information check out the Gordon Parks Foundation and Gordon Parks Center.

Next week, Macy’s, the Gordon Parks Foundation, and American Black Film Festival are honoring Parks’ 100th birthday anniversary with an in-store celebration, art installation, and discussion about his work on February 21 at 5:30 p.m. at Macy’s Metro Center (lower level in Furniture Gallery) in Washington, D.C.

DISCLAIMER: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post about the Macy’s Black History Month event. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

 

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