This series from Life Magazine in 1952 sums up just one of the many contradictions and facets that made up Gordon Parks. Filmmaker, poet, writer, photographer, movie producer, cinematographer, magazine publisher, novelist, activist, choreographer, semi-pro basketball player, and composer. And those are the accomplishments of his that I can list just off the top of my head.

He was an amazing man and perhaps his greatest work of art was his life itself. Read his works, watch his movies, read about his life, view his images. He was truly an iconoclast.

Someone once described him as the “elegant photojournalist.” This may be true, but it is also a sadly narrow and tiny taste of his expansive talents.

What is truly remarkable is how he could compartmentalize his talents. The eyes and the mind behind these images were also behind Shaft, The Learning Tree, “American Gothic” and “The Emerging Man”.

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

You know, the camera is not meant just to show misery.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

There’s another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it, and someone else will take it further on, you know.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

I bought my first camera in Seattle, Washington. Only paid about seven dollars and fifty cents for it.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

I haven’t even learned how to spell Renaissance yet.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

But all I know, it was a constant effort, a constant feeling that I must not fail, and I still have that. And now, I feel at 85, I really feel that I’m just ready to start.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

In New York growing up, you never saw a black person on the street, you never saw a black person in the store, you never saw them in a restaurant. It just didn’t exist. So when Gordon and I met, it was really without any boundaries. First of all, he was drop-dead good-looking. We just looked into each other’s eyes, and we were friends.

-Gloria Vanderbilt

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

Many times I wondered whether my achievement was worth the loneliness I experienced, but now I realize the price was small.

-Gordon Parks