Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950 at National Gallery of Art, through February 18, 2019

“Within just a decade, Gordon Parks (1912–2006) grew from a self-taught portrait photographer and photojournalist in Saint Paul and Chicago to a visionary professional working in New York for Ebony and Glamour, before becoming the first African American photographer at Life magazine in 1949. For the first time this lesser-known yet incredibly formative period of Parks’s long and illustrious career is the subject of an exhibition, Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950. On view in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the traveling exhibition provides a detailed look at Parks’s early evolution through some 150 photographs, as well as rare magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and books. It also demonstrates how Parks influenced and was inspired by a network of creative and intellectual figures—including Charles White, Roy Stryker, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison. A fully illustrated catalog, produced and published by the Gordon Parks Foundation and Steidl in association with the Gallery, features extensive new research and many previously unpublished images.” — National Gallery of Art

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera” — Gordon Parks, 1999

Gordon Parks. Captain Bill Lafond, 60-year-old fisherman at Gloucester, owns three boats. He is of Dutch French ancestry and has been going to sea since he was 13, November 1944. gelatin silver print. image: 33.34 x 26.35 cm (13 1/8 x 10 3/8 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection). Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Trapped in abandoned building by a rival gang on street, Red Jackson ponders his next move, 1948. gelatin silver print. image: 49.21 x 39.69 cm (19 3/8 x 15 5/8 in.). sheet: 50.64 x 40.8 cm (19 15/16 x 16 1/16 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection). Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Paris Fashions, 1949. gelatin silver print. image: 29.5 x 19.7 cm (11 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection). Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Drug store “cowboys.” Black Diamond, Alberta, Canada, September 1945. gelatin silver. print image: 24.1 x 32.7 cm (9 1/2 x 12 7/8 in.). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (The Gordon Parks Collection). Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Washington (southwest section), D.C. Negro woman in her bedroom, November 1942. gelatin silver print. image: 35.56 x 27.94 cm (14 x 11 in.). Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Grain Boat taking on a load of wheat, Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada, October 1945. gelatin silver print. image: 26.7 x 26.8 cm (10 1/2 x 10 9/16 in.). George Eastman Museum, gift of Standard Oil of New Jersey. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Off On My Own, 1948. gelatin silver print. image: 11.75 x 11.75 cm (4 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.). sheet: 13.02 x 13.02 cm (5 1/8 x 5 1/8 in.). The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Lt. George Knox. 332nd Fighter Group training at Selfridge Field, Michigan, October 1943. gelatin silver print mounted on board with caption. image: 25.4 x 26.35 cm (10 x 10 3/8 in.). sheet: 27.31 x 26.35 cm (10 3/4 x 10 3/8 in.). The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Washington, D.C. Mrs. Ella Watson, a government charwoman, with three grandchildren and her adopted daughter, July 1942. gelatin silver print. sheet: 18.3 x 23.7 cm (7 3/16 x 9 5/16 in.). mount: 24.1 x 29.2 cm (9 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Gordon Parks. Charles White in front of his mural “Chaos of the American Negro”, 1941. gelatin silver print. image: 22 x 24 cm (8 11/16 x 9 7/16 in.). framed: 22.3 x 25.2 cm (8 3/4 x 9 15/16 in.). The Charles White Archives. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Pool Hall, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1950. gelatin silver print. image: 24.13 x 33.97 cm (9 1/2 x 13 3/8 in.). matted: 40.64 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in.). Collection of Paul Sack. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Gordon Parks. Washington, D.C. Government charwoman, July 1942. gelatin silver print mounted to board with typewritten caption. sheet: 23.7 x 18.2 cm (9 5/16 x 7 3/16 in.). mount: 29 x 24 cm (11 7/16 x 9 7/16 in.). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Gordon Parks. Self-Portrait, 1941. gelatin silver print. sheet: 50.8 x 40.64 cm (20 x 16 in.). Private Collection

Gordon Parks. Washington, D.C. Young boy standing in the doorway of his home on Seaton Road in the northwest section. His leg was cut off by a streetcar while he was playing in the street., June 1942. gelatin silver print, printed later. image: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.). The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in collaboration with the Gordon Parks Foundation. The exhibition is curated by Philip Brookman, consulting curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Exhibition Tour: National Gallery of Art, Washington, November 4, 2018–February 18, 2019. The Cleveland Museum of Art, March 23–June 16, 2019. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, August 31–December 29, 2019. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, February 1–April 26, 2020

Images courtesy National Gallery of Art.