Learning From Gordon Parks
Black author, photographer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks established himself as one of the most renowned documentarians of American life and culture in the 20th century. Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, he was drawn to photography as a young man after seeing images of migrant workers in a magazine. He would become one of the most esteemed photographers of all time, documenting segregation, poverty, and urban life over a career spanning more than five decades.
Local photographer Ann Dean discusses the impact and inspiration found in three of Parks’ seminal books: The Learning Tree (1963), A Choice of Weapons (1966), and Half Past Autumn (1997). She examines how these works were rooted in his mother’s teachings in love, dignity, and hard work – lessons still relevant in today’s complicated world – and what they tell us about his struggles and triumphs.
Dean is an artist and freelance photographer based in Lawrence, Kansas. She teaches photography at the Lawrence Arts Center.