Gordan Parks: A World of Possibility

From our twenty-first-century perspective, it is clearer than ever that Gordon Parks’s work and life tell compelling stories that must be attended to, even as their contingent events recede into an ail but irretrievable pasto Parks died only in 2006, but the forces-both benign and malevolent-that shaped his work and life seem, in our new and differently configured century, increasingly Foreign, distant, and hard to imagine. We have lost the man, but we are fortunate to have his powerful images and evocative prose.

Whether we consider his photographs individually, or in the context of the news stories and collective initiatives that prompted them, Parks’s work resonates with crucial events of his century, recording the vast social changes that occurred in the United States as the Great Depression ended, as the nation was swept up in war, and as Americans experienced the domestic pros perit y and defining social upheavals of the post-World War Il period Parks himself wrote several memoirs that monumentallze his life.’ His work-in ail its phases-can be seen as not only emblematic but also productive of a national narrative of the American twentieth century. It is certainly time to reread that story in words and pictures.

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