Gordon Parks X Muhammad Ali, 2019
Pages: 216 pages / 115 images
Format: Hardback / Half-linen
Size: 25 cm x 29 cm
Series edited by Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr.
Introduction by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Edited by Paul Roth and April Watson
Co-published with The Gordon Parks Foundation and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
CM H 29 W 25
IN H 11.42 W 9.84
Gordon Parks X Muhammad Ali, 2019
In 1966 Life magazine assigned famed photographer Gordon Parks to cover Muhammad Ali, the brash young boxing champion. Four years later in 1970, the two came together again for a second feature story in “The Great American Magazine.” These encounters framed a critical passage in the career of the controversial heavyweight, whose antiwar and black separatist views had led to widespread vilification in the United States. They also marked a significant moment of transition for Parks, then following up his remarkable success in photojournalism with new projects as an author, filmmaker and composer.
Collaborating on these two stories, Parks and Ali transcended their routine roles as journalist and athlete to make sense of an epoch and the American struggle against racial inequality, in which both were key players. Parks’ intimate perspective on Ali during this crucial period is indispensable to understanding the boxer called “the greatest of all time.” This book includes an expansive selection of photographs from Parks’ original reportage, many never before published, as well as reproductions of his original stories as they appeared in Life magazine. Co-published with The Gordon Parks Foundation and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
"When Gordon Parks photographed and proﬁled Muhammad Ali for Life magazine in 1966, and then photographed him again in 1970, in some ways he might just as easily have been making self-portraits and writing about himself. Both men were tenacious ﬁghters. Both men bore the scars of lifelong racism. Both men were internationally acclaimed, yet both were more devoted to speaking out for social justice than seeking out personal success. And though both were celebrated for their nonverbal art—Ali’s balletic boxing and Gordon’s poignant photography—what truly bound them together was their powerful use of words, speciﬁcally poetry, to express their optimism for the promise of America—and frustration with the reality. And, more important, to inspire positive change.
Yet Ali’s ascension to African American icon was not automatic in Gordon’s eyes. In his 1966 Life article, a wary Gordon had reservations about Ali’s ﬁtness to be a leader and spokesperson during the tumultuous and violent civil rights movement that clenched the country in an exasperated ﬁst. That year, James Meredith, the ﬁrst African American to attend the University of Mississippi, was shot and wounded by a sniper on the second day of his “March Against Fear,” and the NAACP’s Forrest County, Mississippi, chapter president Vernon Dahmer was killed by a ﬁre bomb. Emotions were raw and anger was high. But righteous indignation, no matter how justiﬁed, wasn’t the goal, Gordon knew. Change was the goal."
Excerpt from “Two Poets of Faith and Hope,” Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali
Gordon Parks, one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, was a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He left behind an exceptional body of work that documents American life and culture from the early 1940s into the 2000s, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. Parks was also a distinguished composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the leading people of his era—from politicians and artists to athletes and other celebrities.
Gordon Parks was born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912. An itinerant laborer, he worked as a brothel pianist and railcar porter, among other jobs, before buying a camera at a pawnshop, training himself, and becoming a photographer. In addition to his storied tenures photographing for the Farm Security Administration (1941–45) and Life magazine (1948–72), Parks evolved into a modern-day Renaissance man, finding success as a film director, writer and composer. The first African-American director to helm a major motion picture, he helped launch the blaxploitation genre with his film Shaft (1971). He wrote numerous memoirs, novels and books of poetry, and received many awards, including the National Medal of Arts and more than 50 honorary degrees. Parks died in 2006.
Parks’ work is in the permanent collections of major museums, among them the Art Institute of Chicago; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the International Center of Photography,...Read more
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