American Gothic | Gordon Parks

American Gothic, Washington, D.C., 1942

In 1942, Gordon Parks went to work for the Farm Security Administration in Washington, DC. The American capital back then was a cesspool of bigotry. Parks had to enter restaurants and theatres through the back door. Even the federal government participated; the new war office then being built on the other side of the Potomac had separate eating and lavatorial arrangements for blacks and whites.

On his first day, Park took the photo of Ella Watson was a black charwoman who mopped floors in the FSA building. Park recounted how she was paid $1,080 annually (around $15,000 today), how one of the offices she cleaned was that of a white woman who had started work at the same time and with very similar qualifications, how she was raising three grandchildren and an adopted daughter on her meagre salary.

Parks remembered: “She had struggled alone after her mother had died and her father had been killed by a lynch mob. She had gone through high school, married and become pregnant. Her husband was accidentally shot to death two days before their daughter was born. By the time the daughter was eighteen, she (the daughter) had given birth to two illegitimate children, dying two weeks after the second child’s birth. What’s more, the first child had been striken with paralysis a year before its mother died.”

He took the photo to his boss at the FSA (legendary Roy Stryker, who oversaw a stellar team of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Carl Mydans and many more at the FSA). Stryker “told me I’d gotten the right idea but was going to get all the FSA photogs fired, that my image of Ella was ‘an indictment of America.’ I thought the image had been killed but one day there it was, on the front page of The Washington Post.”

Soon, the photo came to be known as American Gothic, after the iconic 1930 painting by Grant Wood. Parks had the painting in mind when he carefully posed Watson in front of a flag-draped office, with mop and broom in hand. It was one of the first photos he took on his way to becoming the Jackie Robinson of photography.

19 thoughts on “American Gothic | Gordon Parks

  1. Howdy this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually
    code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I
    wanted to get advice from someone with experience.
    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

  2. Gordon parks is one of the great visual artists of the 20th century, a great American, and an example for anyone who seeks truth. What a talent!

  3. Greetings from California! I’m bored at work so I
    decided to check out your site on my iphone during
    lunch break. I love the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait
    to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile ..

    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, good site!

  4. Aw, this was a very nice post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to make a very good article
    but what can I say I put things off a lot and never manage to get
    nearly anything done.

  5. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a
    difficult time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.

    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s