By: John Edwin Mason
It’s the season of Gordon Parks. Still.
Over the last year or so, Parks’ photography has been more visible and more appreciated than at perhaps any time since the 1960s and ’70s. In 2012, he was the subject of several major exhibitions in New York. Earlier this year, Steidl issued a five-volume edition of his Collected Works. And, now, a, important new show, Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument, is opening at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The Making of an Argument is a fresh look at the the photos and text in “Harlem Gang Leader”, the first of the many photo-essays about African Americans that Parks published in Life magazine. I’ve been lucky enough to have had several of long conversations about Parks with Russell Lord, who is curating the exhibition. Trust me, there’s going to be a buzz about this show.
Here’s part of what the museum has to say about it:
In 1948, Gordon Parks began a professional relationship with Life magazine that would last twenty-two years. For his first project, he proposed a series of pictures about the gang wars that were then plaguing Harlem, believing that if he could draw attention to the problem then perhaps it would be addressed through social programs or government intervention. As a result of his efforts, Parks gained the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, and produced a series of pictures of them that are artful, emotive, poignant, touching, and sometimes shocking. From this larger body of work, twenty-one pictures were selected for reproduction in a graphic and adventurous layout in Life magazine.
…Curator Russell Lord notes, “By the time the reader opened the pages of Life magazine, the addition of text, and the reader’s own biases further rendered the original argument into a fractured, multi-layered affair. The process leads to many questions: ‘What was the intended argument?’ and ‘Whose argument was it?.’
The exhibition opens tonight and will be on view until January 19th, 2014.