The Gordon Parks Foundation announced exhibition dates for Beneath These Restless Skies, a new interactive multimedia exhibition by British documentary photographer and 2017 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellow Harriet Dedman. The exhibition, which explores issues of identity and opportunity in West Harlem, will be on view at the Foundation’s exhibition space from February 23 through May 4, with an opening reception with the artist to be held on February 23. The reception is free and open to the public.
Beneath These Restless Skies tracks the life of 24-year-old Trevor Brown and his wider generation: disenfranchised, with limited social mobility and meager opportunities to move beyond an education secured in a post affirmative action era. Dedman’s work is inspired by Gordon Parks’ Civil Rights-era photo essay about the Fontenelle family that appeared in LIFE magazine 50 years prior. Through the project, and over the course of two years, she immersed herself in the lives of the Brown family who live along the same stretch of 123rd Street as the Fontenelles and face many of the same enduring hardships—poverty, unemployment and racism.
Dedman said, “This is a series about identity and stereotypes, profiles and profiling, and a generation of young men lost in the wake of marching change–50 years after Gordon Parks.”
Dedman’s exhibit will allow viewers to interact with the Browns’ story through photographs, archival maps, video, and audio. The artist worked with Empathetic Media to create an immersive virtual reality experience using 360 video, 3D scans of environments and characters, audio interviews, archival video and photography by both Dedman and Parks. The VR experience will debut at the February 23 opening reception where patrons will be invited to explore Trevor’s world.
In 1967, Gordon Parks first visited the Fontenelle family. Tasked by the editors of LIFE magazine, where he worked as its first African-American photographer, Parks was asked to identify why African Americans "were rioting in the streets.” His answer was curt and pragmatic. “Poverty and racism,” he replied. The Fontenelles were to be his every family, living in desperate conditions within a tenement building in West Harlem. The series of photographs – alongside his work with Harlem gang leader, Red Jackson - would form some of his most significant images against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.