Art You Should Know About #5: Gordon Parks

This week, the photographer who went deep into New York's showgirl scene

In December 1958, LIFE magazine published an article about a much-maligned area of American entertainment that featured a series of lush, colourful portraits by legendary photographer and humanitarian Gordon Parks.

'Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz' offered readers a rare and intimate look at showgirls in New York City’s Latin Quarter.

One of the icons of 20th-century photography, Gordon Parks spent his life documenting American culture – focusing on issues of race, civil rights, and urban life – for nearly 70 years. He also worked as a filmmaker, composer and author.

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In this candid image, a notable example of Parks’ early experimentation with colour, we see Pat Farrell prepare to make a chess move against opponent Grace Sundstrom while Shirley Forrest, an ex-schoolteacher, looks on.

The strength of Parks’ photography is not only in its visual commentary and raw look at culture (interesting fact: he also directed the seminal blaxploitation film Shaft), it is also, as noted by LIFE, “living, breathing proof of the poet’s point that beauty is its own excuse for being.”

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Michelle Ticknor, Director of Curation + Content at Art.co.uk, says: “This soulful image is a wonderful complement to black and white photography. Complete it in an off-white or grey frame to really make the colours pop."

Showgirls Playing Chess Between Shows at Latin Quarter Nightclub, premium photographic print by Gordon Parks from Art.co.uk.

 

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MORE ART FROM THIS SERIES:

John Dominis 
Mario Wagner 
Pure Evil 
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