That tornado from the west: Gordon Parks was the embodiment of elegance, culture and a zest for life.

Author:Higgins, Chester, Jr.
Position:Tribute - Obituary

RIDING THE WIND FROM THE Midwest to the East Coast, a young Gordon already knew how hopeless life could be: orphaned, homeless in the middle of the Depression. Like the trains on which he worked as a waiter, he was driven, focused and fearless. A chance encounter with a passenger awakened in him a desire for the camera. Embracing the camera, he began bouncing between the different worlds of race, publishing, poverty and money.

And he had style. So much style that he always cut a dashing figure. We men loved him, and women loved him dearly. He became the envy of many. Style, for him, was important but not everything. Style was presentation, only the beginning. His style made you predisposed to appreciate his substance. He poured elements of this substance into his photographs, his photo-essays, his writings, his music, his poetry and his films--always into his art.

To me, Gordon's style of dress is what I would call casually elegant. His interior makeup matched his casual exterior elegance, and he expressed the former well in his art. Everyone could see it in his writings, his photography and his films.

His life became his art, and his art became his life. Art became the vehicle that allowed him to dig deeper into himself, like a miner digging deep into the earth. Late at night, he descended into those hidden depths of his soul and retrieved a few bits here and there. These bits would sit on his mind and percolate into a brew that would become an artistic expression and rise with the morning sun.

The Finer Things

Gordon was a study in self-worth, his head always held high, completely at ease with himself. He enjoyed life in a classy way: his taste in people, theatrical productions, parties and sports (tennis and skiing). He told me, "It is important to become well-rounded in all of the finer things in life and art. Go to good theater, read...

To continue reading