Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument

 

The New Orleans Museum of Art presents Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument

From a NOMA press release:

The New Orleans Museum of Art presents Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument, an exhibition that explores the production of Parks’ first photographic essay, “Harlem Gang Leader,” for Life magazine in 1948.

“This project raises important questions about the role of photography in addressing social concerns, its use as a documentary tool, and its function in the world of publishing,” said Susan M. Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “We are delighted to be working with The Gordon Parks Foundation on this exhibition since it is a project that addressed many of the major issues that Parks would explore throughout his career.”

In 1948, Gordon Parks began a professional relationship with Life magazine that would last twenty-two years. For his first project, he proposed a series of pictures about the gang wars that were then plaguing Harlem, believing that if he could draw attention to the problem then perhaps it would be addressed through social programs or government intervention. As a result of his efforts, Parks gained the trust of one particular group of gang members and their leader, Leonard “Red” Jackson, and produced a series of pictures of them that are artful, emotive, poignant, touching, and sometimes shocking. From this larger body of work, twenty-one pictures were selected for reproduction in a graphic and adventurous layout in Life magazine.

At each step of the selection process—as Parks chose each shot, or as the picture editors at Life re-selected from his selection—any intended narrative was complicated by another curatorial voice. Curator Russell Lord notes, “By the time the reader opened the pages of Life magazine, the addition of text, and the reader’s own biases further rendered the original argument into a fractured, multi-layered affair. The process leads to many questions: ‘What was the intended argument?’ and ‘Whose argument was it?’.”

Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument examines these questions through a close study of how Parks’ first Life picture essay was conceived, constructed and received.

The facts:
Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument

September 12, 2013 – January 19, 2014
The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, Louisiana 70124

Gordon Parks, American, 1912-2006; Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948; Gelatin silver print, printed later; Courtesy The Gordon Parks FoundationGordon Parks, American, 1912-2006; Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948; Gelatin silver print, printed later; Courtesy The Gordon Parks FoundationGordon Parks (American, 1912-2006); Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948 Gelatin silver print, printed later; Courtesy The Gordon Parks FoundationGordon Parks, American, 1912-2006; Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948; Gelatin silver print, printed later; Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation