Sunday, February 23, 2020

Beyond the divide

In 1956, around a decade before Doris Derby chose to take pictures of the civil rights movement at grassroots level, Life photographer Gordon Parks was assigned the task of showing the daily reality for a black family in Alabama. As Jacqui Palumbo has noted in a piece for Artsy, the resulting series - published under the title Restraints: Open And Hidden - opened readers' eyes to the fact that segregation persisted in the Deep South despite the supposedly landmark US Supreme Court Brown v Board of Education ruling two years earlier.

Yet the pictures did more than merely suggest division. Palumbo quotes from Maurice Berger's contribution to the subsequent 2014 book on the series: "Images like these affirm the power of photography to neutralize stereotypes that offered nothing more than a partial, fragmentary, or distorted view of black life." That they were shot not in the stark black and white of so much documentary photography but in colour was apposite - Parks' perspective was nuanced and complex.

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