Photographer & director Gordon Parks, March 7 Gordon Parks, who became the first African American staff photographer at Life magazine in the late 1940s and broke more ground in Hollywood two decades later as the first black person to direct a major studio film, The Learning Tree, followed by the landmark black private eye movie Shaft, died on Tuesday in New York. He was 93. Parks carved out many other niches in life -- including novelist, memoirist, poet and composer -- but it was as a photographer and social documentarian that he made his mark as an artist. He was a self-taught photographer who was equally at ease documenting a chain gang in Alabama or photographing Manhattan socialite Gloria Vanderbilt. As a staff photographer at Life for more than two decades, Parks shot more than 300 major assignments, including acclaimed photo essays on segregation in the Deep South (1956), the slums of Rio de Janeiro (1961) and the Black Muslims (1963). .
AP/ Marsha Halper, file
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