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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion- April 2018 - Gordon Parks' "Drinking Fountains"

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Monthly Masters' Discussion- April 2018 - Gordon Parks' "Drinking Fountains"

Post by minniev » Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:31 pm

About the Artist and the Image

Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. In addition, Parks was also a celebrated composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the most prominent people of his era - from politicians and artists to celebrities and athletes. He was the first black staff photographer for both Life and Vogue magazines and was awarded the National Medal of Arts. His long career left a legacy in fashion and portraiture as well as in social awareness.

Gordon Parks’s “Segregation Story” images, first published in Life magazine in 1956, are as important today as they were 60 years ago. Though the civil rights movement is most commonly associated with black-and-white photography, these images — which are part of a recent exhibition at Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis — were shot on color film, and connect past and present in a more immediate way.

Study the information in the links about his life and work, and review the images. Then react to the posted image. There’s some questions to get you thinking.

Links for Learning More
http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Parks
https://www.artsy.net/artist/gordon-parks
https://www.cnn.com/style/article/gordo ... index.html
http://time.com/4200148/gordon-parks-ph ... -humanity/
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/24/t-ma ... lideCard-1

Questions To Consider
1. Is photography capable of informing change in societal attitudes and/or behaviors? Why or why not? Should photography be used this way? Why or why not?
2. What do you think of this specific image? The choices of composition, color, framing? Does it have emotional impact for you?
3. Parks broke some rules here from a strictly photographic point of view. The subjects are shot from behind with no eye contact. There is an out of focus intrusion on the left that suggests the image may have been shot from inside a car. There is a metal bar that blocks our vision. What are your thoughts about these "problems"?
4. Have you ever shot images you feel might have impact on the social awareness of viewers? If you’re willing, please post one and share your story about it, including any reactions you’ve had from viewers.
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GP56.010_Drinking_Fountains_Mobile_Alabama_1956_HR.jpg
fair use: http://www.jackshainman.com/artists/gordon-parks/
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by St3v3M » Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:05 pm

minniev wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:31 pm
Questions To Consider
1. Is photography capable of informing change in societal attitudes and/or behaviors? Why or why not? Should photography be used this way? Why or why not?
2. What do you think of this specific image? The choices of composition, color, framing? Does it have emotional impact for you?
3. Parks broke some rules here from a strictly photographic point of view. The subjects are shot from behind with no eye contact. There is an out of focus intrusion on the left that suggests the image may have been shot from inside a car. There is a metal bar that blocks our vision. What are your thoughts about these "problems"?
4. Have you ever shot images you feel might have impact on the social awareness of viewers? If you’re willing, please post one and share your story about it, including any reactions you’ve had from viewers.
If you think times have changed you have not been watching the news, and while more video than stills an image is an image, used for good or for evil depending on your point of view. Has anything really changed? Martin Luther King Junior had a dream and I'm afraid his dream is lost, but then again from tragedy comes change and Lo It's The Children That Will Set Us Free!

With that said it's obvious, I think an image can change the world, look at war, we had propaganda updates from the field, but it wasn't until filming the Vietnam War that the American people really understood the horrors our soldiers went through. The reality of what was happening polarized the nation and set the country on a new course and it's the same now with image manipulation and social media. Truth, lies, and somewhere in-between, all over an image.

I like the image for its candidness, technically it's not bad and it's not great, but you feel as if you're there, staring out the car window watching the scene and depending on how you relate to such things are forced into the emotions you believe. What I'm struck by most though is how little advertising has changed. The images may be a bit more glossy, but for the most part, we post the same ads now as we did then, it's comforting in a way. I'm curious too what the people in the middle did and which fountain they used; Italians, Indians, Brazilians, and on. Where did the people in the 'grey' reside?

I think it's important to have shot the image with their backs turned. People inherently look into other people's eyes and to lose this makes it less personal, more voyeuristic if you will. I like the window frame being there, without it I might think I was walking by and taking the image in some documentary style, either for or against the matter, but with the frame, I feel more isolated, more hidden from view and free to see without the world judging my actions. It's more personal I guess.

I really like this, with everything from the contrasting colors or the arch of her back leading you to her daughter. It's an amazingly simple image and yet a strong message for social change. When will we ever learn we are brothers and sisters all? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by minniev » Sun Apr 01, 2018 9:40 pm

St3v3M wrote:
Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:05 pm

If you think times have changed you have not been watching the news, and while more video than stills an image is an image, used for good or for evil depending on your point of view. Has anything really changed? Martin Luther King Junior had a dream and I'm afraid his dream is lost, but then again from tragedy comes change and Lo It's The Children That Will Set Us Free!

With that said it's obvious, I think an image can change the world, look at war, we had propaganda updates from the field, but it wasn't until filming the Vietnam War that the American people really understood the horrors our soldiers went through. The reality of what was happening polarized the nation and set the country on a new course and it's the same now with image manipulation and social media. Truth, lies, and somewhere in-between, all over an image.

I like the image for its candidness, technically it's not bad and it's not great, but you feel as if you're there, staring out the car window watching the scene and depending on how you relate to such things are forced into the emotions you believe. What I'm struck by most though is how little advertising has changed. The images may be a bit more glossy, but for the most part, we post the same ads now as we did then, it's comforting in a way. I'm curious too what the people in the middle did and which fountain they used; Italians, Indians, Brazilians, and on. Where did the people in the 'grey' reside?

I think it's important to have shot the image with their backs turned. People inherently look into other people's eyes and to lose this makes it less personal, more voyeuristic if you will. I like the window frame being there, without it I might think I was walking by and taking the image in some documentary style, either for or against the matter, but with the frame, I feel more isolated, more hidden from view and free to see without the world judging my actions. It's more personal I guess.

I really like this, with everything from the contrasting colors or the arch of her back leading you to her daughter. It's an amazingly simple image and yet a strong message for social change. When will we ever learn we are brothers and sisters all? S-
Thank you Steve for a thoughtful commentary and a reminder that the days of the 50's/Jim Crow are not really gone, but have changed forms. I believe we will continue to need photographers like Parks whose eye/skill combine to show us scenes that present a reality we may not think about on a daily basis because it isn't OUR reality.

I will be adding to the thread myself as it develops (hopefully) and will add an image of my own. I hope others do too.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:51 pm

I know this picture well. Too well. It makes me sad, and mad. Emotional? OH yes! Its continuing power, I think, is due to the fact that even after 60 years too little has changed. There is a frightening resurgence of the far right, neo-Naziism, "White Supremacy" (OMG!) and on and on. This picture remains important, as history certainly, since the Jim Crow laws are gone, but the Jim Crow attitude remains. As an Old, "White," Native-born Male, I am and always have been horrified: I KNOW what "White Privilege" is; I live it. I KNOW what "White MALE Privilege" is; I live it, and I am ashamed of it because I feel there ought not to be any such thing, yet there it is. Gordon Parks's photo essay appeared while I was still just a kid, and I saw it when it was published, and I'm certain that it absolutely influenced me then, and now. Should photography be used this way? I say absolutely! I think of the FSA photographers of the 1930s who woke the nation to the plight of Dust Bowl refugees (among others). Lewis Hine risked his life early in the last century to document exploitative child labor, which eventually led to laws banning it. Photography is a powerful tool for change, but it is a two-edged tool that can be used for propaganda as well (and some I'm sure consider Gordon Parks a propagandist for a certain viewpoint. (?) )

From a purely photographic viewpoint, sure the picture is "flawed," but it's "street;" it's photojournalism. I don't know what rules were in force in 1956 but currently the AP forbids doing anything to a picture beyond cropping and minor exposure and color adjustments. AP stringers have been fired and banned for doing anything beyond that, and I imagine that LIFE at the time had pretty similar rules. It seems plain to me that Parks was probably sitting in the passenger seat of a diagonally parked car when the thirsty dressed-for-church mother and daughter happened along. I see this as classic l'instant décisif. I picture Parks with his camera in his lap glancing up and seeing the pair moving toward the fountains. By their dress it was warm so he probably already had his window wound down. The fraction of a second, the moment of decision, brings the camera up and gets off one shot. I don't see problems; I see scene-setting establishing markers. Slice of life in that era for black people, humiliated daily.The picture howls injustice!

I have no pictures of my own, but I've saved this...
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Master Racists 2.jpeg
"The Master Race..."
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by PietFrancke » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:32 pm

these are iconic images. Chuck I think that there has been great progress. Not all people change and they do not all change at once, it is a process that takes decades and decades, but it happens. There has long been an undercurrent of resentment and suppressed hatred.

What is new is that the desire to make news and to sell news and to make money and to become powerful has sunk to a new low. Our current president tapped into this, and Fox is also doing everything it can to tap into it. It is all about segmenting the market and then monetizing it (whether it be dollars or votes). A lot of people think what they think. So, today (more than in the past), those that should be more responsible are simply telling those segments what they want to hear.

It is not shocking to me that we live in an age of hatred (we always have). The shocking thing to me is that our fourth arm of government (the media) has decided to do the equivalent of chasing facebook likes by telling specific segments of our population exactly what they want to hear. With no regard to consequence and no sense of morality.

Today there is a special brand of arrogance that feels it can say or do anything. It has been made bold by money and by acceptance. I find it disgusting and it makes me sick and very discouraged. Today it is OK (more so than ever before) to LIE.

edit - to get back to topic.. Image one - dignity, grace, poise while in a position of weakness. Image two - hatred and anger while in a position of strength. YES, pictures convey emotions and tell a story and potentially change the world.

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Post by St3v3M » Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:54 pm

I understand the gravity of what I'm asking, but the more I look at this the more I wonder what we can do to change it? S-
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Post by PietFrancke » Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:09 pm

St3v3M wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:54 pm
I understand the gravity of what I'm asking, but the more I look at this the more I wonder what we can do to change it? S-
I think the news media has decided to change their role from "stay close to the accepted standard (a type of PC I guess)" to blatently fragment and isolate and polarize. It is about greed. Being ethical is no longer economical. I think the only thing that can be done is to paint this greed as the monstor that it is. And to find out how to bring honor and pride back to the ethical, the simple, the small. (I know this was not much of an answer).

I don't think the media will recover from this disease... It is sad, but it is not the quiet, soft voice that is heard, rather it is the screaming of the monster and the screaming of the victim. The solution (if there is one), is to find and listen to the calm, soft voice of sanity and compassion.

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Post by St3v3M » Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:11 pm

PietFrancke wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:09 pm
... The solution (if there is one), is to find and listen to the calm, soft voice of sanity and compassion.
And how do We do that? What can We do to change the tide? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by PietFrancke » Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:23 pm

St3v3M wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:11 pm
PietFrancke wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:09 pm
... The solution (if there is one), is to find and listen to the calm, soft voice of sanity and compassion.
And how do We do that? What can We do to change the tide? S-
we share with each other the things that work.

For instance - I believe that our news feeds have become tainted and corrupted. To battle this, I find myself avoiding watching talking heads. (well, I DO now watch Vinny Le Pes - LOL). If something is being placed on my plate to eat, it is likely that I am being sold a bill of goods. I have to work harder to find something that I will believe. Words are better than video. Thus -- spend more time with "goodreads". Spend more time sharing my own thoughts with my friends (you guys).

I no longer try to change the world. Rather, I will try to change myself!!!!!!!!

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Post by minniev » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:38 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:51 pm
I know this picture well. Too well. It makes me sad, and mad. Emotional? OH yes! Its continuing power, I think, is due to the fact that even after 60 years too little has changed. There is a frightening resurgence of the far right, neo-Naziism, "White Supremacy" (OMG!) and on and on. This picture remains important, as history certainly, since the Jim Crow laws are gone, but the Jim Crow attitude remains. As an Old, "White," Native-born Male, I am and always have been horrified: I KNOW what "White Privilege" is; I live it. I KNOW what "White MALE Privilege" is; I live it, and I am ashamed of it because I feel there ought not to be any such thing, yet there it is. Gordon Parks's photo essay appeared while I was still just a kid, and I saw it when it was published, and I'm certain that it absolutely influenced me then, and now. Should photography be used this way? I say absolutely! I think of the FSA photographers of the 1930s who woke the nation to the plight of Dust Bowl refugees (among others). Lewis Hine risked his life early in the last century to document exploitative child labor, which eventually led to laws banning it. Photography is a powerful tool for change, but it is a two-edged tool that can be used for propaganda as well (and some I'm sure consider Gordon Parks a propagandist for a certain viewpoint. (?) )

From a purely photographic viewpoint, sure the picture is "flawed," but it's "street;" it's photojournalism. I don't know what rules were in force in 1956 but currently the AP forbids doing anything to a picture beyond cropping and minor exposure and color adjustments. AP stringers have been fired and banned for doing anything beyond that, and I imagine that LIFE at the time had pretty similar rules. It seems plain to me that Parks was probably sitting in the passenger seat of a diagonally parked car when the thirsty dressed-for-church mother and daughter happened along. I see this as classic l'instant décisif. I picture Parks with his camera in his lap glancing up and seeing the pair moving toward the fountains. By their dress it was warm so he probably already had his window wound down. The fraction of a second, the moment of decision, brings the camera up and gets off one shot. I don't see problems; I see scene-setting establishing markers. Slice of life in that era for black people, humiliated daily.The picture howls injustice!

I have no pictures of my own, but I've saved this...
Thank you for sharing these intensely personal responses. i came of age in these times and places, so scenes such as Parks photographed are very familiar to me. I questioned their fairness then, I see the progress that has been made, but I am aware that there is so much more that needs to be done. We seem to take a step forward and two steps backward. I agree with you that photography should absolutely always call out truth and speak that truth to power. That is what I believe this particular series of Parks' work did. (A prolific artitist, he produced a dizzying array of work in a multitude of art forms from painting to poetry, move production to fashion photos).
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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