Affinity and Beyond – Episode 14

While Brianna was very happy with the stories she had written so far, she wanted to do more about the spark that led to a person’s discovery of their talent. This was much tougher than she realized. It seems that those sparks were often hard to identify in documents about talented people. The story of Gordon Parks was one of a small spark that led to a talented inferno.

Gordon Parks was born in Kansas in 1912. He had 14 older siblings. His education began in a segregated elementary school. His high school was integrated but African American students were limited in their participation in school activities. They were also discouraged from furthering their educations beyond high school.

When he was 14 his mother died, and he was sent to his older sister. That didn’t last long, and at the age of 15 Gordon left and began working in brothels as a singer and musician.

At age 28, Gordon discovered his talent. He began to take photographs. His entire life was turned around when a clerk, who developed his first roll of film, encouraged him. This one simple act unleased a creative genius. At first his photography was of fashions for a clothing store. He later did portraits of elite society but he was more and more attracted to capturing the images of African American lives.

Gordon was more than just a talented photographer. In fact, there are few creative areas where he did not make a contribution. These include:
• Film – his most notable work was the director of the movie Shaft
• Music – he wrote songs, symphonies, and ballet scores.
• Writing – he was the author of 15 books including books on photography, poetry, and memoirs.
• Artist – he produced photographic related abstract paintings.
• Magazines – he helped found the Essence Magazine

Gordon Parks passed away at the age of 93. He never finished schooling but received 20 honorary doctorate degrees in his lifetime. Just imagine the creative contributions of one man who most would have written off when he was young.

Brianna had expected that talent sparks would be more significant than the one that led Gordon Parks to discover his talent. She realized that simple kind words of encouragement can be a spark that propels ones talent forward. Was this why she saw so few references to what led to the discovery of one’s talent? She hoped to get Henry’s insight on this.
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“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.”
– Gordon Parks

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