Gordon Parks gets his due in new HBO documentary | Entertainment


Gordon Parks was the first black photographer hired by Life magazine. He was a pioneering photojournalist, film director (“Shaft”, “The Learning Tree”), successful novelist and composer.

Parks was also a fighter. Whether photographing socialites, gangsters, civil rights icons or movie stars, Parks has used his art as a megaphone, pulpit, magnifying glass and projector, all in an ongoing battle against the prejudices and instant judgments that hold us back. separate from the truth.

Parks the fighter is at the center of “A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks,” a new documentary that debuted on HBO last week. Director John Maggio’s 90-minute film (“The Newspaper Man: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee”) is less about chronicle of Parks’ life and more about how his art and career have changed the world. life of others.

Through interviews with famous enthusiasts (director Ava DuVernay, sports icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar); critics (New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb); and promising young photographers (Devin Allen, LaToya Ruby Frazier), “A Choice of Weapons” delves deeply and insight into Parks’ groundbreaking work. Keep your remote handy, as you’ll want to review each frame indelibly.

Died in 2006 at the age of 93

Parks’ amazing life came to an end when he passed away in 2006 at the age of 93. But for artists and activists who have followed in his footsteps, its seismic impact is more shocking than ever.

“He defined himself on his own terms,” ​​says photographer Frazier, best known for “Flint is Family,” her 2016 photo essay on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. “These photographs allowed me to save my own life.

Born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks has made his life defying expectations. He had no other choice.

The youngest of 15 children, Parks was left on his own at an early age. After his mother died, and the parents who were supposed to care for him kicked him out of the house, teenage Parks had to find work wherever he could find it. He played the piano in a brothel, toured as a semi-professional basketball player, and worked as a waiter on a train between Chicago and Seattle.

It was during one of his train trips that Parks saw a magazine featuring the iconic photos of migrant workers taken by Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn and other photographers working for the Farm Security Administration. A spark has ignited. Parks bought a camera from a pawnshop, and within months the self-taught photographer had secured a professional job.

By the time Life hired him in 1948, Parks had worked as an apprentice with the Farm Security Administration and as a correspondent for the Office of War Information. He had also photographed women’s fashion for Vogue magazine.

From all angles

You won’t hear much about those early days in A Choice of Weapons, but you will hear and see a lot about the visionary decades that followed.

Parks was Life’s only black photographer through times of segregation, racial strife, and civil rights victories, and it was his ability to tell the diverse stories of black Americans that resonated his work far beyond. from the newsstand.

Park’s photo reports covered every issue and people of the day, including the ones not everyone wanted to talk about. It meant everything from discrimination and segregation in the Deep South to crime in the city on the side of criminals and police, the life of a Harlem family, the challenges of being Muhammad Ali and the rise of the movement of black Muslims.

“A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks” airs on HBO and airs on HBO Max.


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