Pop Tradition’s Homage to Gordon Parks


When HBO’s Lovecraft Country premiered final weekend, sci-fi and picture nerds reveled on the detailed homage to a number of pictures taken by the legendary photographer, director and writer Gordon Parks. Whereas greatest identified for “American Gothic,” a lot of Parks’ work all through his lifetime touched upon the U.S.’ ignominious, racist previous – work that has entered the up to date consciousness by means of popular culture appropriation.

Primarily based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, the collection occupies an interesting intersection of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythology amid the racism of the 1950s. Showrunner Misha Inexperienced recreated two of Parks’ nonetheless pictures into moments into which the principle characters intersect historical past.

Whereas on task for LIFE, Parks traveled to Alabama within the Summer time of 1956 to doc the racial tensions that adopted the Montgomery bus boycott that resulted from Rosa Parks’ (no relation) arrest for refusing to surrender her seat. The picture essay entitled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden” took a considerably prosaic take a look at the lives of the Thorton and Causey households.

Though Parks typically relied on black and white movie for a lot of his profession (together with 1998’s “A Nice Day in Hip Hop”), he used coloration movie for this explicit task. The colour pictures lend themselves completely as reference pictures, however greater than that, Parks’ “filmic considering” allowed him to create nonetheless pictures that signify, within the phrases of Maurice Berger, “an occasion in a approach that urged its unfolding over time.” (His use of medium format for most of the pictures within the collection actually contributed to a cinematic look as effectively)

In a montage halfway by means of the primary episode that visualizes the informal racism that the characters encounter as they journey east from Chicago (and utilizing James Baldwin’s American Dream and American Negro speech as soundtrack), Parks’ picture come to life. 


Parks’ picture of a black household utilizing the Coloured window at a drive up diner in Shady Grove, AL turned a nighttime scene utilizing an actual restaurant in Hebron, IL in accordance with Reddit person FirmDouble.

Lovecraft Nation (left); Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama (1956), Gordon Parks

Exterior the Cell Saenger Theatre (also known as “Division Retailer”), Parks photographed trainer Joanne Thornton Wilson and her niece Shirley Kirksey beneath a “COLORED ENTRANCE” signal – a picture that has grown immensely widespread up to now few years. In an AL.com interview, Wilson’s son Michael recalled “I requested her, ‘Why are we dressing up?’ She would say, ‘We don’t need individuals to suppose we’re servants.’”

HBO’s Lovecraft Nation

By the way, Wilson and Kirksey will also be seen in Parks’ “Drinking Fountains” picture.

The brilliance of Inexperienced’s homage is the insertion of characters simply outdoors of Parks’ body or a beat past the “decisive second.” The transferring image captures the time continuum from which a nonetheless picture is extracted. It concurrently reveals how the photographer selects a second and standpoint that may make a fraction of a second appear momentous, and the way these fractions of a second are so simply displaced. 

HBO’s Lovecraft Nation

In 2017, Grammy Award-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar dropped the music video for ELEMENT. from his album DAMN, the primary non-jazz or classical work to earn a Pulitzer Prize for Music. The video was co-directed by photographer Jonas Lindstroem, Lamar, and childhood buddy Dave Free.

The opening scene, a black hand rising from a physique of water, is the primary of a number of references to Parks’ pictures. Within the New Yorker, Cassie da Costa notes that the “mimicry of iconic pictures isn’t remarkable in music movies,” however “notably within the case of Parks, the movies rework historic data into lived sensations.”

In December 2017, the Gordon Parks Basis opened an exhibition entitled “Element.: Gordon Parks and Kendrick Lamar” which juxtaposed Parks’ authentic pictures beside stills from Lamar’s video. 

Prime: Gordon Parks, Untitled (1956). Courtesy of the Gordon Parks Basis. Backside: A screengrab from Kendrick Lamar’s “Factor.”

Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Government Director of the Gordon Parks Basis told Okayplayer that “The Gordon Parks Basis is happy to see Kendrick Lamar acknowledge Gordon Parks’ essential pictures whereas working at life journal and honoring his legacy.” Kunhardt additional famous that, “The Gordon Parks Basis makes use of Gordon’s artistic work to teach and encourage younger artists.”

The quiet dignity of the lives of mid-20th century Black People captured so cinematically by Gordon Parks undoubtedly speaks to a youthful technology of artists who discover inspiration in his groundbreaking work. The visible richness of Parks’ pictures conjures alternate narratives and seemingly encourages reimagination based mostly on the lived experiences of different creatives. If imitation is the nice type of flattery, maybe homage is the best type of reverence.


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