The Restraints: Open and Hidden is an exhibition of work by iconic photographer Gordon Parks—a color photo essay of the same name that appeared in Life magazine in 1956. The piece sought to show the magazine’s (largely white) audience that black people, even those living under segregation, lived full, rich, ordinary lives. The Restraints will be on view in the Lyndhurst Gallery at the Center for Documentary Studies from November 15, 2012, through March 2, 2013. The exhibit coincides with Duke University’s year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the enrollment of African American students.
Parks would have been one hundred years old on November 30, 2012 (he died in 2006, at 93). As a young man during the Depression, he joined the Civil Conservation Corps, played semi-professional sports, and did various odd jobs until 1942, when he joined the Library of Congress’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) as the first [Julius] Rosenwald Fellow in photography. In 1948, he became the first African American to work as a staff photographer for Life magazine. In his twenty years at the influential publication, he sought to challenge stereotypes while still appealing to a larger audience, producing photo essays on a broad range of topics before embarking on his successful career as a film director (The Learning Tree and Shaft, among others).
In a related event, Deborah Willis will give a presentation on Gordon Parks at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art on November 16, 2012, at 6 p.m. Willis is chair and professor of photography and imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography. She is a contributor to a five-book series, Collected Works: Gordon Parks, forthcoming in late fall 2012. Willis is judging the 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, co-sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies and the Honickman Foundation.