Capturing the black experience: Jamel Shabazz and Gordon Parks

Malcolm X by Gordon Parks

This week is all about taking time to think about the troubles in America and consider our individual parts in the Black Lives Matter narrative. For once there is no excuse not to do something. If you’re on Instagram you will have seen all the black square posts for #blackouttuesday designed to create a pause for us to think about how we can actively support anti-racism. Whether that’s donating to Black Lives Matter causes, reading up on the everyday racism experienced by black people, well, every day, or buying from black owned businesses, it all helps.

Culturally, two important sources of information for me are Jamel Shabazz and Gordon Parks. Both photographers have documented black lives in America, with Shabazz’s street photography of the early hip-hop era immortalised in the cult photo book, Back In The Days. His Instagram is a lesson in New York social history told through nostalgia-inducing street snaps.

Gordon Parks was the humanitarian photographer who made it his mission to document race relations, poverty, urban life and injustice. He was the first African-American to work as a Life magazine staff photographer and his colour photo essay,The Atmosphere of Crime 1957 has just made its way into a new book published by Steidl. Sensitively portraying inner city crime in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the photos have a cinematic quality that renders them timeless. The Gordon Parks Foundation on Instagram is a vital source of historical storytelling worth a follow.

UPDATE: Read Daria Harper’s excellent Artsy feature on the legacy of Gordon Parks here.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGE: Malcolm X Holding Up Black Muslim Newspaper, Chicago, Illinois, 1963/Gordon Parks Foundation
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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