Gordon Parks
[Photographer and filmmaker, b. 1912, Fort Scott, Kansas, d. 2006, New York.]

 I had known poverty firsthand, but there I learned how to fight its evil—along with the evil of racism—with a camera. 
 The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer. The important people are the people he photographs. They are what make him. 
 I have for a long time, worked under the premise that everyone is worth something; that every life is valuable to our own existence. Consequently, I’ve felt it was my camera’s responsibility to shed light on any condition that hinders growth or warps the spirit of those trapped in the ruinous evils of poverty... To me they were ghosts of my own past. 
 ... I feel it’s the heart, not the eye, that should determine the content of the photograph. What the eye sees is its own. What the heart can perceive is a very different matter. 
 I want my children and my children’s children to be able to look at my pictures and know what my world was like. Even if it only helps a little bit toward this understanding, then I’ve done my job and done it well. 
 You know, the camera is not meant just to show misery. You can show beauty with it; you can do a lot of things. You can show—with a camera you can show things that you like about the universe, things you hate about the universe. It's capable of doing both. And I think that after nearly 85 years upon this planet that I have a right after working so hard at showing the desolation and the poverty, to show something beautiful as well. It’s all there, and you've only done half the job if you don’t do that. 
 We must give up silent watching and put our commitments into practice. We need miracles now, I am afraid. If only we could understand the needs of our past, then perhaps we could anticipate our future. We cannot get too comfortable in our houses. Wolves still roam the woods. The hawk still hangs in the air. And restless generals still talk of death in their secret rooms. 
 I thought then [1941], and Roy Stryker eventually proved it to me, that you could not photograph a person who turns you away from the motion picture window, or someone who refuses to feed you, or someone who refuses to wait on you in a store. You could not photograph him and say “This is a bigot,” because bigots have a way of looking like everybody else. 
quotes 9-16 of 19
first page previous page page 2 of 3 next page last page
display quotes