Beginning in the 1940s, Gordon Parks documented American life and culture with a focus on social justice, race relations, the civil rights movement, and the African American experience. Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man. His earliest work was as a professional photographer was shooting fashion for a department store in St. Paul, Minnesota. This experience led him to Chicago, where he set up a portrait studio in the city's South Side Community Art Center. Despite his lack of professional training, he won a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his photography in 1942; this led to a position with the photography section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., and, later, the Office of War Information (OWI). By the mid-1940s, he was working as a freelance photographer for publications such as Vogue, Glamour, and Ebony. Parks was hired in 1948 as a staff photographer for Life magazine, where more than two decades he created some of his most notable work. Parks continued photographing, making films, publishing, and composing until his death in 2006.
The Gordon Parks Foundation provides access to and deepens understanding of the work and legacy of Gordon Parks for artists, scholars, students, and the public. The archive includes photographs, negatives, contact sheets, publications, and a selection of ephemera related to his work in photography, film, music, and writing. Below are selections from the archive. Researchers are welcome to visit the archive by appointment. For information about accessing the archive, click here.
For image licensing and reproduction requests, click here.