My portraits of Gordon Parks began in 2001 with a simple question, “May I take a photograph of you?” as he was making a grand entrance into church. His music, ballet and poetry were being celebrated before a crowd of admirers and friends. He was wearing a magnificent coat with a fur collar. When I asked if I could photograph him, his reply, with a smile, “just call me.”
I summoned my courage and arranged to come and photograph him. He gently suggested poses and also different angles during our photographic session. His suggestions were welcome and so was the beginning of a friendship. Whenever a photographer asked his opinion about their photographs, he always made himself available, kindly suggesting how they could make them better. I was of the Henri Cartier-Bresson school, trying to fill the entire frame before taking the photo. He liked to crop and often my finished photographs were marked with his pen, concentrating on the subject and what it had to say, rather than what surrounded it.
What impressed me about Gordon Parks was his kindness and interest in the many people who admired him. He was a photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer, a true Renaissance man, who worked with all his heart and soul to convey to others his concerns and the truths he discovered. Despite a difficult life in his early years, he opened his eyes and heart to the world around him, learning from the hurts and trials and overcoming all obstacles to become the iconic and revered artist and a beautiful human being who was admired and loved by all who had the great opportunity to know him.
You can also see more of Claire’s work on her website, claireyaffa.com.