"For me it meant that my work as a photographer should contribute to society that fights for progress head-on."
- James Dickerson
Curator: James Dickerson
2010.21 (Gordon Parks)
Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006), American Gothic (Ella Watson), 1942 (negative), Gelatin-silver print, Sheet: 13 15/16 x 10 7/8 in. (35 x 28 cm), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio), Purchased with funds given by the Toledo Friends of Photography and with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 2010.21 Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation
Think of a word that connects each of your pieces together.
How do you feel connected to these images, to the artist?
For too long has the desire to be seen as human led to the brush stroke, the shutter click, the written word, and the fear of Black art. The arms of this desire carry a rare truth from generation to generation and that truth is the survival of Black Americans. Both Gordon Parks’ and Ernest C Withers’ selected works (American Gothic and I AM A MAN) are photographic examples of everyday life that are part of the story of racial inequality told years apart. For me it meant that my work as a photographer should contribute to society that fights for progress head-on. Their work encourages me to think beyond a superficial lens and holds me accountable for what I produce. Our wins and losses will inspire the next generation of survivors.
2003.46a (Ernest C. Withers)
Ernest C. Withers (American, 1922–2007), I Am a Man, from the portfolio I Am A Man, Photographs: 1956–1968; portfolio: 1994, Gelatin-silver print, Sheet: 15 15/16 x 19 13/16 in. (40.5 x 50.3 cm), Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo, Ohio), Mrs. George W. Stevens Fund, 2003.46a. © Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the WITHERS FAMILY TRUST
How do you feel your choices connect to Juneteenth?
Freedom. The ability to apply for a job, even if bias prevents us from securing the bag, we can do this. We can come out strong and impactful in a way that may have been destroyed had Juneteenth not occurred. That’s all I really have to say.
James “dirtykics” Dickerson is a photographer known for his on-the-spot portraits of Black and Brown communities in Toledo, Ohio. Influenced by a need to visually preserve life, he walks neighborhoods with determined eyes, a warm heart, and open ears. His work has been published in Harper’s Bazaar and exhibited in physical and digital galleries since 2015, most recently the Now is Forever show at Gathered Glassblowing and the Working Artist Collective. If you see him on the street, say what’s up!
Gordon Parks (1912–2006), one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, was a humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice. He left behind an exceptional body of work that documents American life and culture from the early 1940s into the 2000s, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life. Parks was also a distinguished composer, author, and filmmaker who interacted with many of the leading people of his era—from politicians and artists to athletes and other celebrities. Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1912, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man when he saw images of migrant workers in a magazine. After buying a camera at a pawnshop, he taught himself how to use it. […] His extraordinary pictures allowed him to break the color line in professional photography while he created remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of poverty, racism, and other forms of discrimination. From https://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/gordon-parks/biography
Ernest C. Withers (1922–2007) was an African American photojournalist. He documented over 60 years of African American history in the segregated South, with iconic images of the Montgomery bus boycott, Emmett Till, Memphis sanitation strike, Negro league baseball, and musicians including those related to Memphis blues and Memphis soul. In 2010, it was revealed that Withers was recruited and paid by the Federal Bureau of Investigations' COINTELPRO program to inform on the US Civil rights movement for nearly two decades beginning shortly after his first photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Withers