Pioneering poet, photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks died yesterday (March 7) at the age of 93.
Parks rose from poverty and went on to become the first black person to work at Vogue and Life magazines.
In 1969, he became the first black person to write, direct and score a major Hollywood film, The Learning Tree.
Parks also directed the 1971 hit movie Shaft, which helped usher in the “blaxploitation” film genre and has been sampled by numerous rappers.
Chicago MC Common, an avid fan of Parks, used one of his images for the cover of his 2000 album, Like Water for Chocolate.
Born in Kansas, Parks discovered his passion for photography in 1937 in Chicago, after seeing newsreel footage of the USS Panay being sunk by Japanese forces.
As a photographer for Life from 1948 to 1968, Parks covered various social issues and in his later years at the age of 85, he recreated Art Kane’s famous 1958 photograph, “A Great Day in Harlem,” which featured 57 legendary jazz artists.
In 1998, he gathered almost 300 of the most influential rappers to create “A Great Day in Hip-Hop,” which was used on the cover of XXL magazine.
Parks donated 227 pieces of his work to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1998.