Guild of America (which is the official craft union for film and TV directors and
assistant directors) has honored pioneering African-American film director, Gordon
Parks (1912-2006), by putting his image on their official 2015 membership card.
It’s appropriate that the picture
of Parks obviously comes from a set photo, taken while he was directing his
first feature film, “The Learning Tree” for Warner Bros, released in 1969, which was based on
his semi-autobiographical book telling of his experiences as a young man in rural Kansas, during the late
But to say
that Parks was just a film director is only telling part of his remarkable story.
If there ever was anyone who could be called a genuine “renaissance man,” it was certainly Parks – an extraordinary talent who consistently
broke barriers and defied expectations of what black men were “supposed” to do.
Before he directed
his first feature, for 20 years, he was one of Life Magazine’s most accomplished
and acclaimed photographers, traveling the globe to photograph everything, from major news
events, high fashion shows in Paris, and celebrities. He would also chronicle, in
powerful images, the black experience, not only in the U.S., but elsewhere around
from his photography work, and film directing, he was also a celebrated author, with several books to his credit, as well as a composer. Perhaps producer Warrington
Hudlin said it best in an extensive piece about Parks for the
DGA magazine, after his death in 2006 (HERE): that his “lasting legacy is that we cannot accept the limitations imposed by
director working today owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Parks, for opening
the doors and showing the way.