Articles: Director/Legend Gordon Parks Dies




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Legendary photographer/director Gordon Parks, 93, died March 7, according to Parks’ family members. Parks became famous as a Life magazine photographer covering fashion, sports and politics.

Parks became Hollywood's first major black director directing groundbreaking films such as Shaft (‘71) and The Learning Tree (‘69) which was based on his life growing up in Kansas.

As a photographer, Parks gained notoriety for his hard-hitting poignant photo essays on the world’s poverty and the ‘60s the civil rights movement. A composer and writer, Parks directed the sequel to Shaft , "Shaft's Big Score," (72) and published books of poetry and wrote musical compositions including "Martin," a ballet about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Parks is credited as ushering in the 1970’s Blaxploitation era with the movie Shaft. However, the movie’s star Richard Roundtree told in 2000:

"It's very difficult for me to put that word [blaxploitation] into the context of a film when you talk about something that Gordon Parks has directed. I find that word offensive with anything that Gordon Parks has done. Exploitation, and then put black in front of it! That is a very ugly term from where I sit. And the ugliest part about it was the black press started it."

Warrington Hudlin, ("House Party" ‘90) early film aspirations were inspired by Parks after seeing "Shaft" in high school. Hudlin later met the director in the theater’s lobby signing autographs and was surprised he was black. "Shaft" and later Mevin Van Peebles’ "Sweet Sweetback" solidified his desire to become a filmmaker.

Parks, bought his first camera in a pawnshop for $12, he became the first photographer to receive a fellowship from the Julius Rosewald Foundation.

"Nothing came easy," Parks wrote in his autobiography. "I was just born with a need to explore every tool shop of my mind, and with long searching and hard work. I became devoted to my restlessness."

Parks’ Filmography
1. Solomon Northup's Odyssey (1984) (TV)
2. Leadbelly (1976)
3. The Super Cops (1974)
4. Shaft's Big Score! (1972)
5. Shaft (1971)
6. The Learning Tree (1969)
7. The World of Piri Thomas (1968)
8. Flavio (1964)


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