Untitled, Puerto Rico
Gordon Parks, American, 1912 - 2006
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Parks was a self-taught photographer who learned by studying the Depression-era photographs of struggling people that he saw in Life and other magazines of the 1930s, primarily those by Farm Security Administration photographers Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. In the 1940s, Parks became Life’s first African American staff photographer and he also published Flash Photography, one of the first comprehensive books devoted to this subject. In this photograph, we are presented with an unposed group of individuals whose attention is focused above and behind the photographer. While many of the moving figures are out of focus, the man at center stands perfectly still, and the flash illuminating the sharp arc of his hat brim draws our attention to his fixed stare. It is unclear what has captured the subjects’ attention. Is it a spectacular, joyous occasion? A disaster unfolding? Our uncertainty compels us to study their countenances and body language all the more closely.