Thursday, November 25, 2021

Gordon Parks, photographer

When I read that HBO has just premiered a new documentary about the life of Gordon Parks, the African American photographer of LIFE magazine fame, it immediately took me back to New York City in the 50's. Dick, my husband to be, had just left LIFE in 1957 to start his own free-lance photography business and he loved to tell me about the interesting years that he'd spent there.  

This part of my book, "My Halcyon Years" tells of his relationship with Gordon. 


Gordon Parks was a favorite of Dicks. He had been on the staff at LIFE about 5 years when Dick first met him. He found him to be very friendly and easy to talk to. Often the two of them would head out in the same direction after work and they would team up. Dick said that was always exciting because he never knew what Gordon would do or say next.

Gordon had the sort of humor that made fun of life. (Not LIFE, but the real thing.) One of the goofy things he loved to do was to act drunk. If you were walking with him on a city street he would suddenly scoot over to the edge of the sidewalk and continue walking, one foot on the street and one on the sidewalk … making it look like he was staggering.

Dick recalled with relish the time that he did that and an elderly couple saw him and looked disgusted. They made some barbed remarks about him and even used the “N” word. It was just at that time that a well-known (white) man about town recognized Gordon and called out, “I see my favorite photographer is up to his old tricks” at which point Gordon hopped back on the sidewalk and gave him a big hug.

The old couple was flabbergasted and didn't know what to think as they watched him revert to his sober charming self. Gordon just chuckled and gave them a big smile and a saucy wave as he walked off arm in arm with his friend.

Gordon Parks was famous for putting his clients at ease and portraying the “real” person in his photos but Dick said he was like a chameleon. He seemed to have so many personalities that Dick said it made him wonder who the “real” Gordon Parks was.


You can see why I am so excited to view the documentary and I love the title too:

 "A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks" 


Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

I know you will enjoy the documentary since you have first hand knowledge of him. That was funny about the trick he pulled and I hope it taught that old couple a lesson. Probably didn't cure their racism though.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Seems like such a character. Enjoy.

4:18 AM  

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