Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks  

Pen Name: Gordon Parks

Genre: Photography Poetry

Born: November 30, 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas

Sites:


Illinois Connection

Parks moved to Chicago at the urging of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis' wife. He lived there five years taking fashion photographs and documenting life in the slums of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Parks was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film ''Shaft''.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Voices in the Mirror: An Autobiography (Harlem Moon Classics)
ISBN: 0767922123

Three Rivers Press. 2005

Alone after his mother’s death, homeless in a Minnesota winter, young Gordon struggled to stay in school, working at menial jobs and riding streetcars all night to escape the cold. Refusing to succumb to despair, he instead transformed his anger at poverty and racism into a creative force and went on to break down one barrier after another. He was the first black photographer at Vogue and Life, and the first black screenwriter and director in Hollywood, at the helm of such projects as the award-winning Shaft. And his novel, The Learning Tree, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies.

Spanning the major events of five decades, Voices in the Mirror takes readers from Minnesota and Washington, D.C., to the glamour of Paris and the ghettos of Rio and Harlem. His intimate portrayals of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini

of the Muslim and African American icons Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad Ali

of the young militants of the civil rights and black power movements

and of the tragic experiences of the less famous, like the Brazilian youngster Flavio, combine to form an unforgettable story.

Gordon Parks’s life is a metaphor for the courageous vision and extraordinary resilience of the African American community, while also serving as a testament to the spirit and generosity that are its hallmarks.

Glimpses Toward Infinity
ISBN: 082122297X

Bulfinch Pr. 1996

The author's poems accompany his photographs of imaginary landscapes composed of leaves, flowers, plants, and shells

Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective
ISBN: 0821225510

Bulfinch. 1998

Covers the author's photographic work with Life magazine

A Star for Noon: An Homage to Women in Images, Poetry and Music
ISBN: 0821226851

Bulfinch. 2000

The acclaimed poet, photographer, composer, and author celebrates women with a collection of photographs, still-lifes, poetry, and original music, featuring eighteen previously unpublished poems that chronicle the arc of love, from infatuation to fulfillment, as well as a CD containing music specially composed for this volume. 25,000 first printing.

A Hungry Heart: A Memoir
ISBN: 0743269039

Washington Square Press. 2007

Acclaimed photographer, filmmaker, composer, novelist, and memoirist, Gordon Parks has participated in, been witness to, and documented many of the major events in the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries.

In A Hungry Heart, Parks reflects on the people and events that shaped him: from growing up poor on the Kansas prairie to crisscrossing the country on the North Coast Limited

documenting poverty and injustice in Chicago to doing fashion spreads for Vogue

photographing black revolutionaries to writing, composing the soundtrack for, and directing the Hollywood movie version of his novel The Learning Tree. More than a self-portrait of the artist, A Hungry Heart is a striking account of an American era.

Eyes with Winged Thoughts: Poems and Photographs
ISBN: 074327962X

Atria. 2005

In Eyes with Winged Thoughts, the forty-four photographs and fifty-eight poems, reflecting on his long and extraordinary life, offer a rare glimpse of his thoughts and feelings about everything from romantic love to the Iraq war and the passing of Pope John Paul II.

He has done it all. Gordon Parks's life is an astonishing litany of firsts: in the 1940s he was the first African-American photographer to work for the Farm Security Administration and for Vogue and Life magazines

in the 1960s he would become the first African-American director of a major motion picture. A dominating figure in contemporary American culture, he is an artist of uncompromising vision and creativity.

In 2002 Parks received the Jackie Robinson Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame, just the latest in a series of honors that began when he received a prestigious Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1941 and which now includes an Emmy, a National Medal of the Arts, and over fifty honorary doctorates. Now in his nineties, he could easily rest on his laurels, but the luminous photographs on display in Eyes with Winged Thoughts and the poems -- some meditative and lyrical, some raw with emotion about the war in Iraq and the tragedy of the tsunami -- show that he is still a true American Renaissance man.