martedì 21 febbraio 2017

“Ella Watson” by Gordon Parks, 1942

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was an accomplished photographer, filmmaker, memoirist and breaker of color barriers. Before he was famous, however; before he was Gordon Parks, he had a one-year fellowship as a photographer at the Farm Security Administration. There, under the tutelage of Roy Stryker, he honed his skills.

In 1942, on arriving in Washington to work for the F.S.A., Mr. Parks discovered how deeply segregated and bigotry the nation’s capital was. In a single day, he was refused service at restaurants, barred from a theater and dismissed by a department store clerk. His mentor, Mr. Stryker, encouraged him not to give up. “Talk to other black people who have spent their lives here,” Mr. Stryker said, “They might help give you some direction. Only then should the process of shooting begin”

Taking Stryker’s advice, one of his first opportunities to put his determination into practice came when he talked to a woman who made her living cleaning offices in a government building. Her name was Ella Watson, and her hard work paid her a grand salary of $1080 per year. Parks was struck by the fact that one of the offices she cleaned was that of a white woman who had started work at the same time and with very similar qualifications. She recounted even how she was raising three grandchildren and an adopted daughter with her meagre salary.

Parks remembered: “She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob. She had gone through high school, married and become pregnant. Her husband was accidentally shot to death two days before their daughter was born. By the time the daughter was eighteen, she (the daughter) had given birth to two illegitimate children, dying two weeks after the second child’s birth. What’s more, the first child had been striken with paralysis a year before its mother died.

Gordon Parks considered his portrait of Ella Watson as the very first of his professional career. He recalls that when his boss at the FSA first saw it, he “told me I’d gotten the right idea but was going to get all the FSA photographers fired, that my image of Ella was ‘an indictment of America.’ I thought the image had been killed but one day there it was, on the front page of The Washington Post”  becoming one of the iconic images of all time.

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento