UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 01 Fall 14 Library
Gordon Parks,
American, 1912-2006
Untitled, Harlem, New York, c. 1948; Gelatin silver print with applied pigment, 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in, 11.6 x 11.6 cm, Photograph by Gordon Parks, Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation, GP00995
The Fralin

Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument

This fall, The Fralin Museum of Art presented an intellectual examination and artistic appreciation of the work of legendary photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006), which resonated throughout Grounds, in the community and beyond. “Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument”, on loan from the New Orleans Museum of Art, explores the production of Parks’ first photographic essay, featured in LIFE magazine in 1948. Entitled “Harlem Gang Leader,” the photo-essay launched Parks’ 20-year career with the magazine, and features a series of pictures about the gang wars that were raging there at the time. Parks believed that the attention he could draw to the issue might result in social programs or perhaps even governmental intervention. Gaining the trust of a particular gang, Parks created a stunning inside look at its members’ lives that has been hailed as poignant, touching and, at times, shocking. The exhibition focuses on the tension between Parks’ hopes for the essay and the final product, which was altered when he was forced to cede control of the essay to the magazine’s editors. It features vintage photos, original issues of LIFE magazine, and contact sheets and proofs made available by the Gordon Parks Foundation. It provides viewers with an opportunity to examine how the original essay was created and constructed as a way of revisiting the argument that inspired the piece. Also a director, Parks was also spotlighted at this year’s Virginia Film Festival through a pair of his films. His work served as a springboard for further academic exploration in the Corcoran Department of History, where the curator of the exhibition, Associate Professor John Mason, is offering a course entitled “Gordon Parks and the American Documentary Tradition.”

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Boots Mead