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LOOK – American Gothic

by Matt Dunn March 10, 2010 at 11:00 am 37 Comments

Yesterday’s LOOK photo has been deemed too controversial for this blog and was removed yesterday afternoon.  Be sure to check out the complete award winning photo essay about autisim by photographer Gihan Tubbeh.   Last week, a photograph  of two men kissing caused some people to cancel their WAPO newspaper subscriptions.  

Photographer Gordon Parks took this photograph titled “American Gothic” in 1942 while working for the Farm Security Administration in DC.     His editor, Roy Stryker, said that the photo was “an indictment of America” and would get all the FSA photographers fired.   Read the March 2006 obit from NYT photography critic Andy Grundberg.  Excerpt below.

Perhaps his best-known photograph, which he titled “American Gothic,” was taken during his brief time with the agency; it shows a black cleaning woman named Ella Watson standing stiffly in front of an American flag, a mop in one hand and a broom in the other. Mr. Parks wanted the picture to speak to the existence of racial bigotry and inequality in the nation’s capital. He was in an angry mood when he asked the woman to pose, having earlier been refused service at a clothing store, a movie theater and a restaurant.

Mr. Parks credited his first awareness of the power of the photographic image to the pictures taken by his predecessors at the Farm Security Administration, including Jack Delano, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Ben Shahn. He first saw their photographs of migrant workers in a magazine he picked up while working as a waiter in a railroad car. “I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs,” he told an interviewer in 1999. “I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”


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