Virtual Views

Gordon Parks

Explore the artist’s work

Online

Gordon Parks. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois. 1957. Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2019, 13 3/4 × 21" (35 × 53.3 cm). The Family of Man Fund. © 2020 Gordon Parks Foundation

“I’m an objective reporter with a subjective heart,” proclaimed Gordon Parks. “I can’t help but have a certain kind of empathy…. It’s more or less expressing things for people who can’t speak for themselves...the underdogs...in that way I speak for myself.” For over half a century, from the 1940s to the 2000s, Gordon Parks captured American life with his powerful photographs. After getting his first camera at the age of 25, he used this “weapon of choice” to attack issues including racism, poverty, urban life, and injustice. He became the first African American staff photographer at Life magazine—an immensely influential platform in the golden age of photo-illustrated magazines that not only allowed his art to be seen by many but also brought a critical, nuanced and, importantly, a Black perspective to the stories and depictions that he shared. For a 1957 assignment, he crisscrossed the streets of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, producing vivid color images addressing the perceived rise in crime in the US. This series, “The Atmosphere of Crime,” challenged stereotypical images of delinquency, drug use, and corruption.

Take a close look at the powerful work of this photographer, filmmaker, memoirist, novelist, choreographer, composer, and poet as part of our Virtual Views series. Reexamine what criminality looks like through “The Atmosphere of Crime,” and join MoMA curator Sarah Meister and distinguished scholars Nicole Fleetwood and Khalil G. Muhammad for a live Q&A on Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m. EDT, as they discuss Parks’s powerful work and talk about photography, activism, and more.

  • This installation is part of Virtual Views.
    Licensing

    If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

    MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

    If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

    Feedback

    This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].