By Suzanne LaBarre 1 minute Read Think about Detroit architecture, and no doubt a dystopian vision of decaying houses springs to mind. Denver photographer Kevin Bauman has shot plenty of those. Some are deserted, many others still in use. Sometimes a building will be used for successive churches, and will bear the names of both the current, and the former church.
The youngest of 15, Parks chose to make a living for himself after his mother passed away, and wound up becoming the first African American photographer for Life Magazine. Only two years after his first Life assignment, Parks returned home for a photo essay on segregated education.
Journeying to Fort Scott and other Midwestern cities nearby, Parks photographed his childhood classmates, capturing their faces, families and homes while recording details about their occupations and incomes.
The photo essay, for reasons that remain unknown, was never published, and most of the images went unseen. Untitled Outside the Liberty Theater"The museum decided to do a rather major publication on our African American collections across all our departments," Haas explained in a phone conversation with The Huffington Post.
One of the photographs by Gordon Parks was sort of a mystery -- it's simply titled 'Outside the Liberty Theater' and depicts a young couple outside a segregated movie theater. I contacted the Gordon Parks Foundation and together we sorted out the fact that this was a photograph taken in Fort Scott, Kansas and related to a larger story that's widely unknown because it was never published in Life Magazine.
That's really where it all began. They're completely unknown; the foundation didn't know the picture, no one knew what it really was.
It's not that surprising that for a magazine photographer. Without that anchor to a story there's no reason for them to see the light of day again. There was this trail, this little thread I was following to figure out the story from this picture.
Haas mimicked Parks' journey to revisit his old classmates from an all-black elementary school, visiting Kansas City, Saint Louis, Detroit and Chicago -- everywhere except Columbus, Ohio, to see what remained of the spaces Parks immortalized. That white middle class family pose. To pose African American families in front of their homes, I think, would have been quite startling to the readership.
I'm fascinated by the gaze. Each of them trusting their friend, not only this fellow African American, but someone who'd grown up in Kansas with them. What they'd experienced together, the poverty, the childhood struggles. And now he's the famous New York photojournalist, he's a success story.
And each of them is trusting him, telling him their stories. We've been struck by how contemporary it feels, how timely these issues are, obviously, even today.
Here was a photographer, he'd only just begun at Life Magazine less than two years earlier. They assigned him this story on segregated education and he's already given the relative free reign to focus the story around his own childhood.
It doesn't look dated to me. It feels like there is a lot we can talk about.
Parks' images, despite capturing an altogether different time, still speak to a nation where issues of racism are pronounced, whether looking at police killings or the Oscar race.Jan 16, · The photo essay, for reasons that remain unknown, was never published, and most of the images went unseen.
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