The son of a tenant farmer, Parks grew up in poverty. After dropping out of high school, he held a series of odd jobs, including pianist and waiter. In 1938 he bought a camera and initially made a name for himself as a portrait and #fashionphotographer. After moving to Chicago, he began #chroniclinglife on the city’s impoverished South Side. These photographs led to a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, and in 1942 he became a #photographer at the #FarmSecurityAdministration (FSA). While with the FSA, he took perhaps his best-known photograph, #AmericanGothic, which featured an African American cleaning woman holding a mop and broom while standing in front of an American flag.
In 1948 Parks became a #staffphotographer for #Lifemagazine, the first African American to hold that position. Parks, who remained with the magazine until 1972, became known for his #portrayalsofghettolife, #blacknationalists, and the #civilrightsmovement. A #photoessay about a child from a Brazilian slum was expanded into a #televisiondocumentary (1962) and a book with poetry (1978), both titled #Flavio. Parks also was noted for his intimate portraits of such public figures as Ingrid Bergman, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Muhammad Ali.
Parks’s first work of fiction was #TheLearningTree (1963), a coming-of-age novel about a black adolescent in Kansas in the 1920s. He also wrote forthright autobiographies—#AChoiceofWeapons (1966), #ToSmileinAutumn (1979), and #VoicesintheMirror (1990). He combined poetry and photography in #APoetandHisCamera (1968), #WhispersofIntimateThings (1971), In Love (1971), Moments Without Proper Names (1975), and Glimpses Toward Infinity (1996). Other works included Born Black (1971), a collection of essays, the novel Shannon (1981), and Arias in Silence (1994). In 1968 Parks became the #first African American to #directamajormotionpicture with his #filmadaptationofTheLearningTree. He also produced the movie and #wrotethescreenplayandmusicalscore. He next directed #Shaft (1971), which centred on a black detective. A major success, it helped give rise to the genre of #AfricanAmericanactionfilms known as #blaxploitation. A sequel, Shaft’s Big Score, appeared