By Josh Castillo
Born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks was a prolific self-taught photographer, writer, composer and filmmaker who became the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines.
Parks faced aggressive discrimination growing up as a child while he attended a segregated elementary school and was discouraged from participating in school activities and seeking higher education from teachers at his school. After viewing photographs of migrant workers in a magazine, Parks purchased his first camera at the age of 25.
Untitled, New York, 1963
After moving to Chicago in 1940, Parks began exploring subjects beyond portraits and fashion photography such as low-income black neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side. Parks would soon win a photography fellowship with the Farm Security Administration for his images of the inner city the next year.
Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956
Later in his career, Parks would become a staff photographer for LIFE magazine for 20 years. During this period, Parks produced some of his best work, focusing on subjects including fashion and entertainment, as well as poverty and racial segregation.
Gordon Parks died of cancer on March 7, 2006, in New York City at the age of 93.