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Posted under: News Fine Art

These Unforgettable Images Of Black Life Show The Power Of Civil Rights Photographer Gordon Parks

Parks is also the man behind "The Learning Tree" and "Shaft."

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The Gordon Parks Foundation has launched an exhibit in honor of the famed photographer as a part of a Black History Month celebration. Though Parks died in 2006, the collection entitled, I Am You: Part Two has been released posthumously. It will be shown at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York from Feb. 15 - March 24. 

The collection features Parks’ most notable works from the 1940s through the 1960s, and follows a theme of injustice within the Civil Rights era. One of the pieces includes a photo series made in collaboration with Ralph Ellison, who famously wrote the National Book Award-winning novel the “Invisible Man.” Some of the pieces in the collection have never been made public and will see its first audience in the name of uplifting black culture. 

“Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth-century photography,” the Gordon Foundation wrote about their namesake. “A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life.”

Born in 1912, Parks was often subject to discrimination. He bought his first camera at a pawnshop and taught himself how to use it, which eventually led to a career at the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which at the time focused on social conditions. When the FSA closed, Parks became a freelance writer and published a photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader. The moving piece brought him beyond the doorsteps of Life Magazine, where he became both a photographer and writer who often tackled subject matter pertaining to racism and poverty.

Parks used his skills to shed light on the Civil Rights movement through the use of his camera, capturing famous moments in the lives of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Stokely Carmichael. Before Parks' death, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. He was also the first African American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film, “The Learning Tree,” and he would later work on the popular movie “Shaft.”

His legacy is kept alive today not only by the release of his works, but also by his impact on media and photography. 

Below is a sneak preview of a few pieces from the I Am You: Part Two collection:

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