Gordon Parks, An American Story
Presented for the first time in France, the An American Story exhibition proposes a synthesis of the exceptional career of American photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks (1912-2006). In a country that has turned the pioneer figure into a source of heroic mythology and national pride, Gordon Park’s biography is epic: he was the first African American photographer to join the prestigious Farm Security Administration and to then become part of Life magazine’s reporter staff, the first journalist to publish a photo essay about a Harlem gang (1948), and the first African American to write, direct and score a Hollywood film (Shaft, 1971). The pioneering dimension of Parks’ oeuvre is truly exemplary.
As equally passionate about literature, music (he played the piano and was a composer) and film as he was about photography, Parks was 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. His legendary photo essay, The Negro and the Cities– The Cry That Will Be Heard, published in Life’s March 8, 1968 issue, opens with this powerful wake-up call to America: ‘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 to live in peace beneath these restless skies.’
Curated by Alessandra Mauro.
Exhibition venue: Magasin Électrique, parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2013.