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Introduction to the Exhibition—Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950

Philip Brookman, consulting curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art. During the 1940s American photographer Gordon Parks (1912–2006) grew from a self-taught photographer making portraits and documenting everyday life in Saint Paul and Chicago to a visionary professional shooting for Ebony, Vogue, Fortune, and Life. For the first time, the formative decade of Parks’s 60-year career is the focus of an exhibition, which brings together 150 photographs and ephemera—including magazines, books, letters, and family pictures. Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950 is on view at the National Gallery of Art from November 4, 2018, through February 18, 2019. In this lecture held on November 18, 2018, Philip Brookman illustrates how Parks’s early experiences at the Farm Security Administration, Office of War Information, and Standard Oil (New Jersey), as well as his close relationships with Roy Stryker, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison, helped shape his groundbreaking style.