Gordon Parks “Segregation Story” Vs Christopher Morris “My America”

 

   Gordon Parks was the first Black photographer with Time Magazine. He viewed his camera as a weapon. A weapon that brought empathy to his subjects. It makes me wonder what his abilities as a portrait photographer could have been, due to the high feeling of connection I can see. Within "Segregation Story," I could see the tension of the time. There was an off putting feeling as I read through this book. The images were very vivd and colorful. I am used to the black and white images of the civil rights movement which makes things feel distant. The color images brung that time period right into our laps. Being a black man with a camera and realizing that you already don't belong, and with a camera you most definitely do not, I felt startled for him. There are moments when Mr. Parks is near those who are not of color and I can feel the “defiant” move of capturing an image of a white woman. I think of this time period as the same era where Emmett Till was lynched for whistling at a white woman, now I see Mr. Parks photographing a white woman. It made me wonder, how was he not lynched for this. When Mr. Parks is with the family you can see the give and take. They never seemed to be acting for the camera or annoyed with it. They seem to be comfortable with him. He seems to be a part of the family. In some ways he seems to be like a fly on the wall until he enters the city where “Whites Only” and “Colored Only” is written at nearly every turn. Lastly, I felt more than reading this story, I learned a lot more about Mr. Parks. I have a feeling that he knew what he was doing in the moments he held a camera, that those same moments would out live him. 

    As I viewed my America by Christopher Morris I had to ask my self a question. What is America? I see America as a white entity that pushes the white counterparts forward. Where the people who are minority are passed by. It made the title seem to be more subjective of a title than just a title for the book. I believe “My America” is Mr. Morris’s version of America. Coming from war photography to the safe environment of the White House, this could possibly be an ode to his “New America.” The images are tight, controlled, and considered frames. More importantly everything feels like a still life. What ever is on that page is on a page for a reason. Even with all of the commotion of a president and an election, things seem to be very quiet. There is a feeling of a mechanical system, where the subjects seem to be robot like and are just going through the motions. Even outside where some subjects are with nature I see them uncomfortable and disconnected from the natural world. There are moments of coldness, where a gray background or lighting gives the subject this ominous dark character. You can see this same stillness and care to detail that Christopher Morris employs in a painting like George Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" where everything fits into place, but yet nothing feels right. Lastly, the lack of diversity or even anyone who is a minority reminds me, this is my America.