Gordon Parks Essay - Critical Essays

Parks, Gordon (Vol. 1)

Parks, Gordon 1912–

A Black American writer, author of The Learning Tree, Parks is also a photographer, film director, and composer.

A Poet and His Camera [is] the new book by Gordon Parks, who has spun his poems and his photographs together to suggest a good dream, always beautiful, sometimes elusive.

Vogue, October 1, 1968.

Gordon Parks, perhaps best known for his photojournalism achievements, is a man of many talents. He has written, produced, and directed, as well as scored, this reflective memoir [The Learning Tree] based on his autobiographical novel. Parks's strongest attribute is his wonderful humanism, and ability to follow the path of an artist rather than pound out a message….

But in the matter of style, Parks has fashioned a film very much like some of the more melodramatic efforts of his white predecessors. The characters are often clichéd, despite the attempt at understanding them. And there are such unplausibilities as the hero's black girl friend taking off with a leering white boy with no motivation at all shown. Adding to a heaviness is Parks's own score, of the sudsy, punctuation type. Perhaps others are not so bugged by this type of movie music. For me it works to destroy credibility, because it gives a soap-opera effect even when the scene is solid….

Parks is obviously on the side of morality, regardless of color, and artists who follow a humanitarian path don't often fit into the see-saw patterns of their time. Hopefully, Parks will continue making films, and will always retain his ability to see life in its entirety.

William Wolf, in Cue, August 9, 1969.