The Story Behind the Photograph

Michele Washington and Gordon Parks, 2006. Photo: Anthony BarbozaThe story behind this photograph is a poignant one.  Graphic designer and design critic Michele Washington says that when Angela Dodson, editor of the now-defunct magazine, Black Issues Book Review, decided to feature photographer Gordon Parks on the cover, she, as the designer on the job, "jumped at the idea of having Anthony Barboza photograph Parks."  Washington knew that Gordon Parks had mentored Barboza early in his career so "it seemed to make perfect sense for him to tackle this assignment." Anthony Barboza is a NYC-based photographer who, like Parks, has excelled in both fine art and commercial photography.

Photo historian Deborah Willis interviewed Gordon Parks for the article. 

"What none of us knew, at the time, was that this would be the last photo shoot and interview before Gordon Parks passed away later that year (2006)," recalls Washington. "After the session my entire crew took turns taking photos with Gordon Parks."  

The idea to tell the story behind the photograph seemed to be the result of Gordon Parks reaching out from beyond to touch us here.  In the infinite (and sometimes scary) "wisdom" of the big data into which Spotify is connected, the music provider knows that Washington and I are associates and connected us on my page.  On November 30, 2013, when I saw Michele's photo with Parks (her Spotify icon) on my page, I thought it would be interesting to learn the story behind the photo and tell it here as a way of remembering the photographer on his birthday. 

"Hmmmmm, I wonder when his birthday is," I thought and searched the date on line.  His birthday was on that very day, November 30!  What a coincidence?  Or not?  Deep mysteries abound.  — J.H.

An additional recollection by Anthony Barboza

If you remember when the shoot was over Gordon knew he would never see us again so he brought out the wine and we had a toast. He said that the doctor said he shouldn't drink so he had apple juice or some other beverage. I felt he knew but I can't prove that but deep inside of me when we did that toast, I felt we would never be together again. I really, really treasure that special moment. He and that day were very special and he allowed us to share it with him. Beauty is always best reflected when you are with those you feel a special closeness too. Gordon had a love for us as a people and everything he did was to show us that we are truly special when we believe in what we can and will do if we have the passion.

That was a nice article. Thanks Michele!