A Choice of Weapons

by Gordon Parks Sr.

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty.

In this quote, Gordon Parks Sr. describes his decision to use photography to combat the injustice he faces and witnesses. Parks specifically refers to his choice to combat injustice through nonviolent art activism. His early thirties were spent witnessing the rise of the Black Power movement, which incorporated the use of armed self-defense. In A Choice of Weapons, Parks describes how he wanted to address injustice with a different set of tools than those of violent resistance. Though he did not approve of the use of violence or armed self-defense, he did have empathy for his friends and loved ones who picked up guns and ended up dead or imprisoned. Parks did not want to face the same oppressions as his friends and hoped his camera could be as powerful as a weapon in its own right.

I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.

Here, Parks describes his realization of the power that comes from how a camera can capture a moment in time and share that moment with the world. Photography was an instrumental tool in the civil rights and Black Power movements. In A Choice of Weapons, Parks describes his choice to use photography as a tool to highlight injustice and not let the suffering of those who endure injustice simply be ignored.

The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer.

Parks speaks to his commitment to using photography to combat injustice rather than become wealthy or famous. Parks grew up facing poverty, racism, and state violence. He grew up with similar experiences as the people he photographed. Parks never lost sight of his commitment to telling the stories of his subjects—and of challenging those who would rather ignore injustice to look squarely at it though his photography. In this quote, Parks demonstrates the humility and determination he addresses his work with.

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