The Gordon Parks Foundation worked with famed book publisher Gerhard Steidl to produce a series of five books that span Parks' photographic career. The book begins in 1942 with the first professional position Parks held at the Farm Security Administration under the guidance of the program’s director, Roy Stryker. The iconic photograph of Ella Watson from this period, known as “American Gothic,” remains one of Parks’ most important and recognizable images. Aiming to expose intolerance and to fight social injustice, Parks worked for the U.S. Office of War Information and Standard Oil of New Jersey before becoming the first African American photographer for LIFE magazine in 1948. Over the course of more than two decades, Parks produced photo-essays on an exceptionally broad range of topics, including gang wars in Harlem, fashion in Paris, and segregation in the American South, before embarking on his successful career as film director. He was also an accomplished portraitist, capturing now-famous images of Ingrid Bergman, Alberto Giacometti, Gloria Vanderbilt, Duke Ellington, Malcom X, and Muhammad Ali.
Co-edited by Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation and Paul Roth, Senior Curator and Director, Photography and Media Arts at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the book features thematic essays that reflect the impact Parks had on varied visual, artistic, and social spheres. Among the essay contributors are photography curator and writer Maurice Berger (University of Maryland), Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University) and Deborah Willis (Photography Department Chair, New York University). In addition to these interpretive texts, endnote essays by George Philip LeBourdais (Photo-historian and Stanford Ph.D. Candidate in Art History) will conclude each volume explaining the social significance of the photo assignments and in some cases written in Parks' own words