Gordon Parks. The Mobile Museum of Art has a display of photography by Gordon Parks. I was familiar with him for several reasons. A major reason is — we share a Kansas heritage.
He was born in 1912 in Ft. Scott, Kansas, and lived to be 93 years old. He was well known for many reasons, photography being a major one. He also was a musician, poet and film director with “Shaft” being his most famous movie.
His photography is described as photojournalism. Most of his work was centered in struggles within black culture. His documentary essays were an important part of Life magazine for many years.
One of the photo essays was the content of a Mobile Museum of Art exhibit.
Mobile Museum of Art exhibit. In 1956 he was assigned by Life magazine to come to Mobile, Alabama, and take photographs of ordinary life for a black family. The museum exhibit displays those photos in color. If you Google “Gordon Parks, Mobile, Alabama, Images, you will see the photographs. They are striking and worth the effort.
When Jeny and I visited the exhibit, my first reaction was to be in awe of his photographic skill. His ability to capture emotion and beauty was outstanding. His pictures are simplistic, authentic and captivating. He was able to show strength and struggle through reflections of everyday life.
My second reaction was to note the difficulties of those times and the resiliency of black culture. Times were tough and it took strength to survive.
My third reaction was to reflect on the huge differences between the segregation in the South and my upbringing. In 1956 when the pictures of segregation were taken by Parks, my high school was integrated. The Homecoming King was black and he kissed the white Queen without the threat of lynching. We had problems of prejudice but my life was a long way from these pictures,
My fourth and final reaction was to note how Mobile has changed. The separate drinking fountains are gone. Colored only entrances are gone. Schools are integrated. Parks are integrated. Buses are integrated. Churches are integrated. Restaurants are integrated. Interracial dating and marriages are occurring. Affordable housing is more readily available. I live in an integrated neighborhood. Many changes for the better have occurred.
I look at the exhibit and rue prejudice of the past, but I also rejoice for progress. We still have issues associated with prejudice. Learning of past prejudice is good but dwelling on the past will not create further progress. We must appreciate improvements, understand how they happened, and use that knowledge to work for further progress.
Update. Jeny had her first chemotherapy treatment. It went better than hoped. We believe your prayers have helped strengthen an already resilient woman. Her hair remains but the loss is coming. She is hoping to keep her hair throughout our trip to Colorado next week.
We are flying to Boulder, Colorado, for a graduation and good-by celebration for Andrea. She is leaving in August for Oxford, England, and a three-year post-doctoral experience.
I am excited to see Andrea, family, friends and those awesome mountains. I wish I had the skill of Gordon Parks photography to capture the celebration. Alas, the cell phone will have to do.