blackbirdonline journalFall 2016 vol. 15 no. 2
GORD0N PARKS | VMFA Recent Acquisitions

Introduction to Parks at Life: Works from VMFA’s Collection

As the first African American photographer hired full time by Life magazine, Gordon Parks (1912–2006) was frequently given assignments involving social issues affecting black America. In 1950, one such project took him back to his hometown in Kansas for a photo essay he planned to call “Back to Fort Scott.”

Parks’s photographs, now owned by the Gordon Parks Foundation, were slated to appear in April 1951, but the photo essay was never published. Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott, organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in partnership with The Gordon Parks Foundation, revives those photos and presents a rarely seen view of the everyday lives of African American citizens, years before the civil rights movement began in earnest.

Exclusive to VMFA’s presentation of this exhibition was Parks at Life: Works from VMFA’s Collection. These eight photographs by Parks, recently acquired by the VMFA, appeared in subsequent photo essays for Life  on topics ranging from Black Muslims to the effects of segregation on one family.

Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott was on exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts July 23–October 30, 2016, and was curated for the VMFA by Sarah Eckhardt, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Generous support for this exhibition was provided by Canvas at VMFA and James W. Klaus. Thanks to the Gordon Parks Foundation, the VMFA, Sarah Eckhardt, and Howell Perkins, for making Blackbird’s presentation of this work possible.  

   Parks at Life: Works from VMFA’s Collection
   eight recently acquired photographs and curator’s commentary

   Contributor’s notes: Gordon Parks
   Contributor’s notes: Sarah Eckhardt

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