Born in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912, Gordon Parks was a preeminent photographer, poet, novelist, composer, and filmmaker. He was one of the most prolific and diverse American artists of the 20th century. Parks was foremost a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He photographed many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006 with an emphasis on race relations, poverty, civil rights and urban life. Parks overcame significant obstacles in the course of his career: he was the first African American photographer to join the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and to become part of LIFE magazine’s staff of photographers; the first journalist to publish a photo essay about a Harlem gang and the first African American to write, direct and score a Hollywood film (Shaft 1971). Parks was driven by the struggle against discrimination and used his cameras as his arms against the prejudice and injustice that surrounded him.
Parks received countless awards, including the National Medal of Arts, and more than fifty honorary degrees. His photography has been the subject of national and international exhibitions at numerous museums, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Art institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.