Gordon Parks “Industrial Photography For The Standard Oil Company”

Keith de Lellis Gallery

poster for Gordon Parks “Industrial Photography For The Standard Oil Company”
[Image: Gordon Parks, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Farmers waiting with their wagon-loads of wheat to go alongside the separator (1945)]

This event has ended.

Keith de Lellis Gallery presents the documentary work of Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) for the summer season. This series of images documents the influence of the Standard Oil Company on remote communities in western Canada.

A self-taught photographer, Gordon Parks began his photojournalism career documenting the social changes of the 1930s for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) under Roy Stryker. After the FSA was dissolved in 1943, Parks went on to balance freelance fashion and documentary work, including the Standard Oil project. His tireless dedication to photojournalism would lead him to become the first African American staff photographer for LIFE magazine, where he worked on staff for twenty years, documenting many of the major figures and events of his time. A multitalented creator, Parks was also an accomplished writer, musician, and filmmaker.

Parks received numerous awards and over fifty honorary doctoral degrees for his work. At a fundraiser for the Gordon Parks Foundation, Anderson Cooper spoke fondly of Parks: “He was the first journalist I knew…He gave voice to those voices who had been silenced by poverty and injustice.”

Exhibited at the gallery are Parks’ photographs made on assignment for Roy Stryker’s photodocumentary project on the Standard Oil Company. Commissioned by Standard Oil’s public relations department, the project was intended to sway public opinion in favor of the company and the oil industry. The photographs were to show the company’s positive impact on the communities in which they were present.

Depicted in Parks’ photographs are miners, cowboys, bush pilots, and farmers as they go about their daily tasks. As someone who had worked various blue-collar jobs, Parks approached these stories with an insider’s perspective. Parks’ Standard Oil photographs are a testament to the 1940s reverence for working-class values.

Lisa Hostetler called Parks’ images “among the most effective documents of their era”. Gordon Parks: Industrial Photography for the Standard Oil Company will be on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through June 15, 2018.



from June 21, 2018 to August 10, 2018

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