37°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Depiction of the Segregated South Through Gordon Parks’ Lenses

Tenement+Dwellers%2C+a+portrait+by+Gordon+Parks+hangs+at+the+MFA+Boston
Tenement Dwellers, a portrait by Gordon Parks hangs at the MFA Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts is now home to Gordon Parks’ photographic essay. Originally meant to be published in Life magazine, but never making it to the printer, these images capture Parks’ hometown of Fort Scott and the everyday lives of the black people that resided in this segregated community. Parks was one of the few black photojournalists of his time, making this exhibit all the more special.
Gordon Parks was born and raised in racially-segregated Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912. By the time he was a young adult he was homeless. Parks developed a love for photography and eventually landed his first job as a fashion photographer, then making his way to creating his unpublished Life magazine photographic essay. Other than photography, Parks had a love for film, directing the movie ”Shaft” which became a huge success.
This exhibit, located on the 3rd floor in Gallery 335, was very surreal. As I moved across the room I couldn’t help but notice that nearly all the images were untitled. There were a few scattered images with names, but other than those, all of the pictures were nameless. It almost leaves titling the image to the viewer, allowing them to create their own representation of the images. Most of the pictures are images of the daily lives of black people living in Fort Scott. There is also a great deal of images showing the scenery of Fort Scott, allowing the viewer to see the place that these people inhabited.
One image, Tenement Dwellers, caught my eye. Although this image was taken in Chicago, the story behind it was very interesting. The image depicts a gloomy-eyed woman staring out a window while her husband lies on a bed next to her with a look of despair on his face. The plaque next to the image mentions how he had just lost his job after moving to three different cities and that the couple had fallen on hard times. The most striking part of this story is that the man supposedly pulled a gun on Parks before he left and demanded all of his money, which is an amazing story—showing the desperation of blacks living in mid-century America.
Ending in September, this exhibit is worth a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. This is a beautifully simple exhibit showcasing the daily lives of blacks living in the south during a brutal era.