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Gordon Parks: Segregation Story Hardcover – February 28, 2015
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After nearly six decades much of the anger in America has dissipated and many wrongs have been righted, but the truth that Parks captured with his camera, his chronicle of suffering and redemption, of courage in the face of appalling injustice, still possesses an unsettling power. (The Editors The Economist)
Gordon Parks courageous photography helped awaken America at the dawn of the civil rights era. He was a master of portraying people from every walk of life. (The Editors CBS)
The portraits are classic Parks; they are sympathetic but not simpering, and aim to emphasize the subjects’ humanity rather than shallowly flatter. (Lilly Lampe Los Angeles Review of Books)
Gordon Parks was born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912. An itinerant labourer, he worked as a brothel pianist and railcar porter, among other jobs, before buying a camera at a pawnshop and teaching himself photography. In 1956, Life magazine published his photo-essay The Restraints: Open and Hidden, which revealed the day to day existence of African American families living in the rural South under Jim Crow segregation. The piece sought to show the magazine’s (largely white) audience that black people, even those living under segregation, lived full, rich and ordinary lives. For many years, the full series was thought lost, but in 2011, more than 70 colour transparencies were resdiscovered. Many of these beautiful images have been republished by Steidl, in the book Segregation Story. (The Editors The Telegraph)
Along with the half-dozen spreads (containing twenty-six images) of the published article, Segregation Story includes sixty photographs Parks made while working on the project. In many ways, they are even more powerful without any text, for words are like a small cup dipped into the deep well of these images, which are so rich in information–and, at times, in mystery. Social issues are only part of the story. Parks had a particular genius for portraying the imaginative worlds of childhood–an image of two boys in overalls fishing, our view of them framed by moss-choked branches, is a masterpiece in itself. (Barry Schwabsky Bookforum)
Rare and striking images of everyday life in the Jim Crow South. (The Editors Garden & Gun)
The rare transparencies had been rediscovered that year by Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., the executive director of the Gordon Parks Foundation, who found them in an unopened cardboard box in their archives. Although the photo was essentially unknown before then, it recently gained prominence when a cropped version of the image graced the cover of the book “Gordon Parks: Segregation Story,” which was published by Steidl as the catalog for the High Museum’s current show of the same name in Atlanta. (James Estrin The New York Times - Lens)
What’s most interesting, then, is how little overt racial strife is depicted in the resulting pictures in Gordon Parks: Segregation Story, at the High Museum through June 7, 2015, and how much more complicated they are than straightforward reportage on segregation. Sure, there’s some conventional reporting; several pictures hinge on “whites/blacks only” signs, for example. But most of the pictures are studies of individuals, carefully composed and shot in lush color. (Anderson Scott artsatl.com)
Parks, raised in a poor tebnant-farming family, became one of the most celebrated photographers of his generation, not only because of his images, which often held a harsh mirror up to American racism, but also because of his writings ― his memoirs and the semi-autobiographical novel "The Learning Tree" ― and his 1971 action movie, "Shaft," which helped open new avenues for black actors and directors. (Randy Kennedy The New York Times Arts & Leisure)
Top customer reviews
The sixty photos in the book clearly show how a significant minority of Americans lived in the southern states back then. An aura of poverty comes across in so many of these images and Parks instinctive knack of framing the essential detail pulls you into the composition. The shacks, school, a church service, funeral, work in the fields and kids playing are all here, showing the colored community separate but hopelessly unequal. The full impact of these photos really comes across in the last few photos in the book because here segregation is spelt out in no uncertain terms with signs: 'Colored entrance' at a movie house; two drinking fountains with 'Colored only' on one of them; 'Colored waiting room' at a bus station (actually taken in Nashville) and the book's cover photo at Atlanta airport with a sign, partially obscured, that says 'Colored only'. The final photo in the book shows six children looking through a wire fence at a playground (slides, swimming pool, et cetera) in a white neighborhood.
Steidl have nicely added an something extra at the back of the book: the twelve pages from the September 24, 1956 issue of Life that featured Parks segregation photo assignment. Reproduced smaller than Life size but the story by Robert Wallace and all the captions are quite readable. Incidentally, the Steidl five volume box set of Gordon Parks photo career has one of the books devoted to reproductions of several of his Life assignments.
There were only five pictures that I really wanted but they were excellent.