The Denison Museum presents "Gordon Parks & Contemporaries through the lens."

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The medium of photography, the capturing of light, affords one the technical ability to record a moment with tremendous accuracy and fidelity. However, the transformative power of photography is something achieved by those who go beyond merely documenting what is in front of them to reveal both the seen and unseen aspects of a subject, a place, or an event. This exhibition celebrates the photographic, journalistic, and poetic works of three such artists: Gordon Parks, Adger Cowans, and Eli Reed

Gordon Parks (1912–2006), one of the twentieth century’s most influential photographers, was a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He was the first black photographer for LIFE magazine, who started under the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and later the Office of War Information (OWI). Parks was also a distinguished composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the leading people of his era. His work documents American life and culture from the early 1940s into the 2000s, focusing on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life.

Eli Reed is an accomplished, award-winning photojournalist who has covered world news events for leading publications such as The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Time, and many more. His documentation of daily life and conflict in Central America, the Middle East, and Africa is especially well known, as is his work as a still photographer for major motion pictures. A member of the prestigious Magnum cooperative, his clients have included Life and National Geographic, among many other leading publications. Today Reed is a Professor of Photojournalism at the School of Communication at the University of Texas in Austin.

Adger Cowans began his career assisting Gordon Parks at LIFE magazine. Besides photography, Cowans has a storied career in cinema as a film still photographer on over thirty Hollywood sets, working with directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, and Spike Lee. In the 1960s, James Ray Francis recruited Cowans to become a founding member of The Kamoinge Workshop. He also joined the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) and is active with both organizations today.

The work of Gordon Parks created an enduring legacy. He captured indelible images of the social conditions in the United States and abroad, as did his award-winning contemporaries Adger Cowans and Eli Reed. The breadth and magnitude of these three seminal Black artists’ work is overwhelming: Black life in America, world events, war, genocide, cinema, concerts, fashion shows, protests, and simple everyday moments are all encapsulated with the same respect and care. These artists combine people, places, and events into complete contexts that are somehow greater than the sum of their parts. More than mere snapshots, these images transcend pigment and paper, engaging us, the viewer, to move, think, and feel beyond what we are told in the headlines.

Hear the music! This exhibition connects to the upcoming Vail concert with six-time Grammy® winner and Emmy® nominated trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the E-Collective, fellow Grammy® winners Turtle Island Quartet, and visual artist Andrew F. Scott where they will celebrate the work of Gordon Parks in a stunning incorporation and multimedia concert of music and art.

Sponsored in part by The Vail Series Work courtesy of Adger Cowans, The Gordon Parks Museum (Fort Scott, Kansas), and Eli Reed.

Learn more about Gordon Parks:

Gordon Parks & Contemporaries: Through the lens by Seyeong Hanlim ’23

 


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