Issue #102  3/15/2006
Photographer Gordon Parks Dies At NYC Home

Gordon Parks, photographer, filmmaker and author, passed away on March 7th at his home in Manhattan at the age of 93.

Gordon Parks was the first African-American to work as a staff photographer for Life magazine, and he was the first black producer and director of a major Hollywood film, "The Learning Tree," in 1969.

In the 1960's he took up writing again (in 1948 he had written a photo book on portraiture), as he wrote his memoirs and penned novels, poems, essays and screenplays. In 1970 he helped found Essence magazine and was its first editorial director.

I will always remember his humanity when he faced a storm of criticism over his decision not to photograph Mohammed Ali after his first loss. He had been the only photographer admitted to the champ's dressing room after the fight. He did not feel it was right to take advantage of his friendship.

Many of his photographs have become icons, including his "American Gothic" and portrait of Malcolm X. Gordon Parks: a remarkable man and artist, always engaged with those he photographed, unlike many other photographers who seem more interested in the gratuitous shot rather than the people in need in front of their noses.