Through his unique style and versatility, Gordon Parks did not just transcend stereotypes, he broke down topical barriers within professional photography. The content of his work reveals his constant transformation of his medium. He was interested in individual and isolable transitory moments as well as a narrative structure for his images. He developed the concept of the image sequence as a means of showing human behavior or societal conditions as recurring, repeated processes. He gave singular events a temporal expansion so that they became a hybrid of static and moving images. He took photos like a cameraman, composed images like a musician, and strung them together like a poet into narratives that speak volumes about their subjects.
This exhibition, presented in partnership with The Gordon Parks Foundation, counts some 150 different works from the Foundation’s collection – vintage prints, contact sheets, magazines, and films – considers Gordon Parks’ photographic and cinematic work together. After Berlin, the exhibition will travel to FOAM in Amsterdam and the Kunstfoyer in Munich. A companion catalogue will be published by Steidl Verlag and The Gordon Parks Foundation.
Gordon Parks was born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, amid poverty and racial segregation. He worked as a pianist in a brothel and as a train porter before purchasing a camera in a pawnshop and teaching himself photography. In addition to pursuing his own photographic projects, he worked for the Farm Security Administration from 1941 to 1945 and for Life from 1948 to the early 1970s. He began devoting himself to film projects in the 1960s and went on to success in Hollywood. Gordon Parks also gained recognition as a composer of music and writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts, and more than fifty honorary degrees. He died in 2006 at the age of ninety-three.
Gordon Parks’ works were first shown in Germany in 1966 at the Photokina, Cologne, and in 1967 at the Kunstakademie, West Berlin. He participated in Dokumenta 6 in Kassel in 1977. In 1989–1990, his photographs were presented in a number of venues in Germany, including the Amerika Haus in Berlin, the home of C/O Berlin today.