Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks
(November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006)
Gordon Parks was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.
At the age of 25, Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and bought his first camera, a Voigtländer Brilliant, for $12.50 at a pawnshop. The photo clerks who developed Parks’ first roll of film, applauded his work and prompted him to get a fashion assignment at Frank Murphy’s women’s clothing store in St. Paul. Parks double exposed every frame except one, but that shot caught the eye of Marva Louis, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis’ elegant wife. She encouraged Parks to move to Chicago, where he began a portrait business for society women.
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