Show of Photos by Gordon Parks

American Gothic, Washington, DC, 1942 (Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy the Gordon Parks Foundation and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Philip Brookman wrote that a photographer could be a storyteller. The images of experiences captured on film joined together like words, can weave stories of feelings and emotions as bold as literature. Photographers combine fact and fiction, experience, imagination, and feelings in a visual dialogue.[ “Unlocked Doors: Gordon Parks at the Crossroads,” Gordon Parks: Half Past Autumn, 1997]

Perhaps there is no person who personifies the power of photography more than Gordon Parks. Gordon Parks shaped the times in which he lived, as much as he was shaped by them.

The most prominent African American photographer and journalist of the 1950s and 1960s, Gordon Parks has documented the experiences of underrepresented individuals and communities throughout his career, while simultaneously creating celebrity portraits, fashion photography, and news photography.

Throughout his career, Parks’ greatest achievement has been documentary photojournalism, but he has also gained a reputation in the field of fashion photography. His willingness to work on fashion shoots has repeatedly opened the door to other possibilities.

Unknown Photographer, Gordon Parks photographing fashion, Paris, France, 1951

Gordon Parks’ earliest work as a professional photographer was shooting fashion clothes for a department store in St. Paul, Minnesota. This professional background allowed him to photograph for local newspapers, prompting Parks to explore and document Chicago’s poor South Rim.

Parks’ combination of fashion photography and documentary photography shaped his style and made him an asset to Life magazine when he joined their staff in 1948.

Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956 (Credit: The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy the Gordon Parks Foundation and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

Gordon Parks documented deep, painful issues that have long been a part of US history. In 1948, Gordon Parks was the first African American to be recruited by Life magazine as a staff photographer. He used his unique position and camera as a “weapon of choice,” he said, to fight for social change.

For more than two decades Gordon Parks raised awareness of the Black experience in America in extraordinary works.

Now, Gordon Parks: A Choice of Arms highlights his work for life in the new exhibition space of the Howard Greenberg Gallery on 57th Street and helps mark the gallery’s 40th anniversary. The exhibition, running through December 23, focuses on Parks’ humanistic and cinematic approach to his subjects.

Gordon Parks, Trapped in an abandoned building by a rival gang on street, Red Jackson ponders his next move, 1948, gelatin silver print, Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection), 2015.19.4605

In tandem with The Greenberg Show, an HBO documentary about Gordon Parks was released in November to mark Shaft’s 50th anniversary. An extensive presentation of the Atmosphere of Crime series at the Museum of Modern Art is on display in the permanent collection galleries by the end of the year.

Ms. Meister, who acquired William Klein’s image from the Howard Greenberg Gallery for the MoMA collection, is one of the many photography curators who have benefited from the gallery’s longstanding support from photographers and commitment to this medium.

Mr. Greenberg was born in 1948. He moved to Woodstock, New York in 1972, where he worked as a photojournalist for a local newspaper. In 1977, he opened his own commercial gallery in Woodstock in 1981, relocating it to Soho, New York in 1986, and then to the Fuller Building on 57th Street in 2003, helping to create a contemporary art market for photography.

As curator of photography at the Met art photo gallery, Jeff Rosenheim said he regularly purchased work for his institution from Mr. Greenberg, including prints by Walker Evans and James Van Der Zee.

Mr. Rosenheim, citing Leon Levinstein’s street photography as an example. , to whom the curator later dedicated a solo exhibition at the Met art picture gallery in 2010, said that at the beginning of his stay at the Met, it was a great pleasure to come across works he knew nothing about, but which he was captured in the gallery.


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