Staff and agencies
Wednesday March 8, 2006
Gordon Parks, the photojournalist who went on to become Hollywood's first major black film-maker, has died aged 93.
Parks, whose photo essays for Life magazine between 1948 and 1968 captured the struggles and triumphs of black Americans, blazed the trail for black-oriented films when he directed the 1971 hit Shaft. The film, which starred Richard Roundtree, spawned a sequel, Shaft's Big Score in 1972, and a remake in 2000. Parks's son, Gordon Jr, directed the 1972 original gangsta movie Superfly.
Aside from his camera work, Parks also wrote fiction and was an accomplished composer, both of which talents were on display in his first film, The Learning Tree in 1969. Parks directed the film, which was based on his 1963 autobiographical novel of the same name, and wrote the score.
He was born November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of 15 children. He held a whole raft of different jobs, including piano player and railway dining carriage waiter, before buying a used camera in a pawnshop for $7.50 when he was about 25. It led to work as a freelance fashion photographer at Vogue magazine, later moving to Life magazine in 1948.
Parks is survived by a son and two daughters.