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Life of Gordon Park Essay

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Updated: Oct 11th, 2021

Gordon Park in his life achieved the remarkable success that led to the empowerment of the African American people in the United States. In the history of journalism, Gordon Park is someone who remains an inspiration to many people because of his life that was admired by many. Born on 30th November 1912 in a poor black African family in the state of Kansas, Gordon Spark was a well-known photographer, poet, writer, journalist, movie director, and a wonderful novelist. His works remain in the history of America as one of the pioneers in the field of journalism. This man in his early life was greatly inspired by his mother who believed that the fact that her son was born black was not a justification that he was out to fail in life. In other words, she believed that failure in life could not be justified by black originality. This inspiration motivated Gordon in the sense that from that point he began his ambition, hardworking and the spirit of never giving up in life that so he earns the kind of respect he commanded from the American people. He grew up in a highly segregated school system where even black athletes could not be allowed to participate in high school games. Due to the segregation, hate could have arisen from Park but he always insisted that his mother only thought of his love.

This has helped the amoral people to maintain their peace and prevent violence resulting from writing. His mother died while he was age fifteen and from there, his father sent him to Minnesota to stay with his married sister. While he was staying with his sister he never agreed with his brother in-laws with whom t a fight broke out prompting him to flee. From here the life of Parks was in a kind of misery whereby he could sleep in trolley cars and loiter in the streets. He also a plaid piano in the brothel and also worked as a waiter in the whites-only club. His early life was not admirable but it inspired many because of what he believed. In one of his books, he notes that: If a white boy can do it, you can do it too and even better if not then don’t come home” This is what Park got from his mother. These words remain an inspiration to the Americans of Black African descent that they have no reason to justify their failure to achieve greater heights in life. Just like Barack Obama has become the first African American president. If it were not for his no turning back nature perhaps things could not work out the way they did. His photography career had a very humble beginning whereby he began by buying his first camera and the person who developed his first film praised him for the good work. This is very significant for young photographers in the sense that they can to develop a career in journalism from a humble start like that of Park. From this humble beginning, Park moved from one job to another as a portrait fashion photographer on a freelance basis. Most of his works at this age were mainly advocating for the rise of the Black people, like for instance the “American Gothic Washington” which was a representation of the black woman in her struggle for survival in the ever racist environment. The reason that might have prompted him to come up with the portrait must have been the existing racism perpetrated by the white people in the white restaurants. He began experiencing this when he stepped into Washington D.C. In 1944 he resigned from his position after realizing the prejudice that existed in that environment. From then, he became a freelance photographer for fashion. He explored the fashion world during this time. He worked for Vogue for a number of years despite the unfriendly environment which existed at that time. Most of his photographs that won awards during the time, were significant in the sense that they highlighted important issues that affected the people and especially the Blacks. For instance, the issue of poverty was adequately highlighted in his photography. Racism was also featured prominently. From a given point of view, one can point out that the photographs have led to the struggle against discrimination and racism by the whites. From a socio-cultural point of view, his works that touched on the suffering of Black people because of the white discrimination impacted positively the situation whereby from this point laws came to be passed that protected the rights of all citizens and thus reduced suffering that comes from racial discrimination. He remains a clarion in the world because of his creativity and innovative spirit. Gordon Park was able to create an image of what everybody in life desires to be. He also went to places that no one had ever gone and managed to come out with the victory. Something that can justify the relevance of his life experiences. This has inspired many people by the move to a place where there are no limits like he believed that no stumbling block should ever come into the way of achieving great things in life. In his photos, it has been observed that the people who are in front are important than the ones behind. This shows the kind of empathy he has inspired in those people who aspire to be artists. His photography always aimed at getting into the deep insight of the situation in the society.

Photographers of today have to borrow a leaf from the experience of Gordon Parks.

Photographs can be used to tell a lot of what is happening in society. This was greatly achieved by this important man. This is not like the photographs of today that are characterized by a lot of computer manipulations, because the spirit of creativity and originality was always maintained in his work. The computers in today’s art have killed the spirit of creativity and originality. Most of the people who get into the jobs are not in because of what they feel for the society but rather only for monetary gains.

As demonstrated by his work talent featured prominently in Gordon Park’s photography. This signifies why photographers of today in America have learned how to exploit their talent in the field of art and other sectors that can help in the self-development of brothers-in-law and advancement.

Politically this man-made significant contributions as far as the civil rights of the citizens is concerned. He was a civil rights activist through his photography and writing skills. Besides his work being liked by many because of his unique styles, he was noted to have highlighted the suffering of African American people in the hands of the whites due to their racial discrimination.

Gordon Park during his career as a photojournalist he was given assignments to cover issues in other parts of the world. For instance, he went out to cover poverty and slum life in the wide Brazilian slums. He did his assignment with diligence and managed to come up with a story on how the people were suffering as a result of poverty. He was therefore very significant in helping to address the issues of the less fortunate in the society such that after the world had been informed of the situation, action could be taken by the concerned government to alleviate the situation. Gordon Park ventured into literature in the 1960s and he managed to come up with several books. All his books were unique in their own identity. Through his literature, much could be learned by society. For instance, the suffering of the poor and racism were addressed artistically in all his books. This is significant to the literature world since it has inspired upcoming writers who are out to exploit their potentials to the fullest. Apart from being an inspiration to upcoming artists, through his literature works reforms could be pushed forwards towards issues that were not being attended to by the government of that time. Artistic wise Gordon Park in the field of cinematography is in the record as the first African – American to direct a movie. This was a great inspiration to the black American community and this saw other African Americans join the field of cinematography and film directorship. The films he managed t direct were all a success story and they were very significant in shaping most of the films which have been produced after him and are enjoyed internationally. In the film industry, he was the director of the movie “shaft” whereby issues of blacks were also highlighted. For instance, in the movie there are gangs and racketeers, This is used to depict life in the streets and derail the moral standards of that particular society Through such works, society was much informed of the situation of Black youths in the United States. Therefore calling for change from such unbecoming behavior that has cropped up in the African American society. This work was significant in awakening the people to wake up from such unlawful acts like doing drugs which were denying them a good chance of rising and developing in their lives.

That the dreams of the people were being undermined by the gangs in that society and thus in another perspective he was highlighting the bad side and impacts of the gang life on the youths in America. Through this work, I think Gordon Park was able to bring about change in the society as the people who were inspired changed their mindsets on the issue of gangs and other social life that shaped the culture of Black American people.

Freedom was also an issue he addressed in his career as a film director. He demonstrated what African Americans needed to do to free themselves from unsocial behaviors like drugs and gangs. Culturally one can point out that Gordon Park was able to break the boundaries that existed in white-dominated areas like poetry, journalism, and photography. This was significant in the sense that it was a clear demonstration as to why white people should not think that black people are inferior. This opened the way for other African authors and photographers in the white-dominated sectors of the American economy.

Socially the marginalization of Black Americans in industries such as film began to decline because of his great efforts. In the films he directed he incorporated many African American actors. This, therefore, went far in terms of increasing their participation in the very white-dominated industry of filming.

He proved to the world that he could produce a movie that is dominated by Black American themes. This he did in the production of “Shaft”. This was unlike in the other movies which had been produced before and were mainly dominated by white themes.

The white-dominated films are the ones which had gained popularity all over the world.

Therefore this movie with an African theme was significant in bringing to the light Black American issues to the world and thus facilitates how they could be incorporated into the development agenda. Many Black Americans have been produced by both whites and African American Directors as a result of the vision left by Gordon Park. This is a clear demonstration of how the Black American community was being empowered to take even senior positions of government in the United States.

In some of his works like “The Learning Tree” Gordon Park stood up and gave out a clear portrait of African American life. He achieved this in a very bold and revealing manner. He also was significant in bringing out the perspective of African American young men and women. This group had been left out and their voices could not be had. Therefore he was an important agent to represent the interests of this group of people.

In conclusion, it is important to note, an activist that Gordon Park was a legend and an icon to the American people in their lives in the areas mentioned. His vision which he got from her mother, that the blacks can do it too, if the white boys are doing it has been a great inspiration to the African American community. His contribution towards the development of the film industry and especially with the African American people being featured in most of the movies that are enjoyed internationally.

As a civil rights activist during his career, this man-made development when he articulated the issues of the marginalized groups in the society like the poor.

This was achieved through his talent and artistic skills.

The legacy he left behind should be honored by emphasizing what he advocated for in his works. His vision to the African American people should inspire them and make them achieve even greater heights using the talents they have to uplift the Black American community. All artists who wish to advance in their careers need to borrow a leaf from Gordon Park because of his remarkable contribution to the various aspects of life in society.


Gordon Parks- Voices in the Mirror

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IvyPanda. "Life of Gordon Park." October 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/life-of-gordon-park/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Life of Gordon Park." October 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/life-of-gordon-park/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Life of Gordon Park'. 11 October.

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