“An American Story” by Gordon Parks

• Brittany Holmes
Exhibition: “An American Story” by Gordon Parks
Location: Atelier De Magasin Électrique
• What was the exhibition about? Discuss the central idea or ideas of this exhibition?
This exhibition was used to highlight and honor Gordon Parks, who had an led and incredible career and life in photography and film, as well as standing up against racism, “… a flamboyant personality, radically committed to the struggle against racism and discrimination, who used (as he himself said) his film and photography cameras as an arm against the prejudice and injustice that dishonoured and disfigured his country” (as found in the artist description of the Parks exhibit). Through Parks’ life, he was able to photograph some of the most important individuals in American history. However, Parks went beyond just photographing the famous people and made a huge part of his career when he joined Life magazine as a reporter. His photo essay, “The Cycle of Despair,” in the March 8, 1968 issue of Life, Parks states:

“What I want, what I am, what you force me to be is what you are. For I am you, staring back from a mirror of poverty and despair, of revolt and freedom. Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. It is our common search for a better life, a better world.
Look at me. Listen to me. Try to understand my struggle against your racism. There is yet a chance for us to live in peace beneath these restless skies.”

With his life work, he was able to take a political stand that would forever leave an impact on the country and the world. These photographs not only document a time period that was in need of being shared in order to achieve progress, but also as a reminder of how far we have come and far we still have to go.
• From this exhibit it is easy to see how one person can really impact the world. When entering the exhibit, Gordon Parks’ name sounded familiar, but I could not necessarily put my finger on his work. However, when I walked into the gallery, I was instantly aware of how I knew his name and the impact he has had on my understanding of history. His life exemplifies the meaning of a politically active photographer. Through his expansive amounts of photos he was able to raise social and ethical issues within America that others were not comfortable to talk about, or did not know how to bring the topic of racism to a discussion. Parks delivered the topic of discrimination and racism, quite literally, to America’s doorstep. It is inspiring to see how one man had such an impact on one country’s political discussion.
•To pick one image from Gordon Parks’ collection that is memorable is simply not a feasible task. Each of Parks’ collections are reminiscent of a time period or subject that holds great importance to America’s history and struggles. These images are those that have taught us, even as young children, who the great leaders were and are. It is these images that we learn of the injustices of the past, and relate injustices of the present to. I cannot pick but one image from Gordon Parks, because I feel as to pick one image means to pick one statement that should be focused on, something that goes against the concept of his life work as a whole.

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