A number of color prints were recently discovered in a storage box at the Gordon Parks Foundation. They are now on exhibition for the first time. The photographs were taken by Parks for a 1956 LIFE Magazine photo-essay, “The Restraints: Open and Hidden.” (+)
You can find the original LIFE article here.
Not all of the “Segregation” photographs are as prosaic as the Thornton portrait (picture #1). Some are ominous and intense, providing stark evidence of the unjustness of segregation and the ways it endangered democracy. (…) But most of the images are optimistic and affirmative, like the portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton. They focus on the family’s everyday activities, and their resolve to get on with their lives as normally as possible, in spite of an environment that restricts and intimidates.
It is the very fullness, even ordinariness, of the lives of the Thornton family that most effectively contests these notions of difference, which had flourished in a popular culture that offered no more than an incomplete or distorted view of African-American life.
The complete and positive images also helped to bolster the morale of blacks in the face of withering prejudice. This is one reason Mr. Parks’s quiet portrait of the Thorntons is an important civil rights image, demonstrating as it does the historic role of photography in black culture. (read more)
GORDON PARKS “COLLECTED WORKS”
Find these and other great pictures in a five-volume book published by Steidl. The book is the most extensive publication to document Gordon Parks’s legendary career. Read an amazing article with more wonderful color photographs of this era on the Lens blog.
search by category: