Gordon Parks


Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006) was an American photographer, composer, author, poet, and film director, who became prominent in U.S. documentary photojournalism in the 1940s through 1970s—particularly in issues of civil rights, poverty and African Americans—and in glamour photography. He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor Americans during the 1940s (taken for a federal government project), for his photographic essays for Life magazine, and as the director of the films Shaft, Shaft's Big Score and the semiautobiographical The Learning Tree.

Parks was one of the first black American filmmakers to direct films within the Hollywood system, developing films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, and helping create the "blaxploitation" genre. The National Film Registry cites The Learning Tree as "the first feature film by a black director to be financed by a major Hollywood studio."

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Self-taught, Parks worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration from 1942-1943, Life Magazine from 1948-1961, where he was the first black staff photographer; and as a freelance fashion photographer. He directed films in the 1960s and 1970s including "The Learning Tree" and "Shaft," composed music, and was the author of several books, mostly memoirs.

Country of birth

United States


Artist, author, composer, film director, photographer, writer

ULAN identifier



Gordon Parks, Gordon Alexander Buchanan Parks, Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks

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Information from the Getty Research Institute's Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License. Accessed May 11, 2024.