Gordon Parks was the first black photographer to work for Life magazine. Through his Life connections and assignments, he got to meet Ingrid Bergman and other movie stars and was probably romantically linked to some of them. From that time on, he was very involved in movie-land culture.
He had an incredibly long and varied career. Over a period of fifty years, he was a photographer, a film director, a poet, and he wrote music for films. Early on he made some very compelling photographs, with a strong sense of social urgency. My feeling is that later the edges got a little soft, but he worked for a very long time. He was certainly a pioneer as a black man and as a photographer—and he was very good.
I did these photos of Parks as a story for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung-Magazin. When I arrived with my assistant, he was stepping out of a shower and was very casual about it—as I recall, he didn’t even put a robe on. But as he started drying off, he put on a bright orange robe.
He said, “Well, Just give me some time to get dressed.” I said, “Please don’t get dressed. Just hold onto that robe, and let’s shoot with that.” He was totally cool, and we took some photographs.
Then he said, “What do you want me to wear?” I said, “Well, let’s look at your closet.” We went in there and found a fur hat and leather coat. I loved the contrast between the warm colors of his mustache, fur hat, and leather jacket and the pipe and the smoke curling up against the deep blue of the young girl in Peru or Bolivia. It was a fitting way to render this very complex and richly textured man. He has a face that’s clearly been around more than one block and the sensitivity to stop and photograph this enraptured young girl.—Abe Frajndlich
Over a span of 30+ years, Abe Frajndlich has been able to photograph many influential photographers such as Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Chuck Close, William Eggleston and Inge Morath. Portraits of these photographers and many more are included in the book, Penelope’s Hungry Eyes, along with lively commentary describing his experiences photographing these masters of the medium.