I am You: Gordon Parks and the faces of the Civil Rights movement

I am You: Gordon Parks and the faces of the Civil Rights movement

Born to humble beginnings in Kansas in 1912, self-taught photographer Gordon Parks would go on to profile many leaders of the Civil Rights movement including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali, as well as leading figures from arts and culture including Ingrid Bergman and Duke Ellington. In the 40s and 50s, at the same time that Parks was capturing scenes of unrest in Harlem and stories of segregation in the American South, he was also creating glamorous fashion spreads for Condé Nast.

Untitled, Washington D.C., 1963

Untitled, Washington D.C., 1963

An exhibition at C/O Berlin is showing together 150 of his works from the period 1942 to 1978, including prints, contact sheets, magazines and films. Parks’s unique sensibility and style provides a powerful insight into a tumultuous time in America’s history and the fight for equal rights, issues that remain powerfully relevant all this time later.

A camera doesn’t simply take pictures. It can be a powerful tool against oppression, racism, violence, and inequality. Gordon Parks described his camera as his weapon of choice, and he used photography incisively throughout his career, exposing the bifurcation of the American way of life and seeking to mediate between groups in a deeply divided society. As an important chronicler of the fight for equal rights for African-Americans, he dealt with topics — poverty, marginalization, injustice — that continue to be relevant today.

Below images via Instagram / Francesca Gavin.

Writer and editor based in New York.