20th Century, African American, Art, Black History, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history

Gordon Parks’ Career Begins

images

1938

“Gordon Parks had moved to St. Paul as a teenager and struggled through the depression working at odd jobs. One day he buys a camera in a pawn shop and in a matter of weeks has his first show at Eastman Kodak in Minneapolis. Thus begins a long, distinguished career as a photographer, composer, novelist, and filmmaker.” *

Ears that hear and eyes that see-the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12

Gordon was born dead, or so the doctor thought, on November 30,1912 wrapped in a cloth and set aside. An observer had an idea to put the child in a tub of ice water, and gently rub ice over his body. Surprisingly, this homespun method worked, and he was revived! **

Parks was born the last child of fifteen to Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross. He worked on the family farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, and held a lifetime attachment to the land. Thought his youth, he wrestled with the dichotomy of a place that was legally free, yet socially informed by the south. He went to a segregated school, and was discouraged from applying to college by his high school advisor because blacks “were not college material.” ** Sadly, Parks did not finish high school, but it didn’t stop his momentum.

About 1927, his mother died, and he was sent to live with his older sister in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Though she cared for him, her husband was in constant conflict with him, and eventually he was turned out of their home at age fifteen. He struggled with homelessness and poverty in the frigid winters, but survived by doing odd jobs working as a: porter, snow shoveler, busboy, semi-pro basketball player, and piano player for a brothel.**

Eventually, his life stabilized by getting steady work as a server on a train. This job had the fringe benefit of exposing him to different people, cultures, and opportunities. Inspired by the art exhibits of Chicago, he bought his first camera, a Voightlander Brilliant, from a pawn shop and began taking pictures.

Mr. Parks recounted that day saying: “Eastman Kodak developed the first roll of film…. and when I went for the prints, one of the clerks complimented me on my first efforts. ‘Keep it up and we’ll give you a show.’ I didn’t take him seriously and he realized it. ‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a good eye.’” ** He continued shooting, and they did give him the show as promised. 

Spurred on by this success, Gordon went to the finest women’s clothing store in Saint Paul, Frank Murphy Fashions, and sought to demonstrate his skills in fashion photography. Though he double-exposed his first roll of film, the one photo that turned out was so elegant that they were willing to repeat the process.*** This began his acceptance in the world of fashion photography.

The success of his Murphy fashion shoots caught the eye of Marva Louis, the bride of the famed boxer Joe Louis. She inspired the Parks’ to consider moving to Chicago as there would be more fashion work for Gordon there. He ended up taking portraits of society women, but it opened the next door for them to move to Washington D.C.**ibid

In a strange turn of events, he was hired by the Farm Security Administration on the weight of an exhibition of his pictures of life on the life of city folks from Chicago’s South Side. Under the tutelage of Roy Stryker, he learned to tell stories in pictures that words could not convey. It was in this era that his most famous photo was born.**ibid

His first assignment given by Stryker was to buy and overcoat, get something to eat, and to catch a matinee. Thinking he had won the lottery, he went shopping, but the staff wouldn’t fit a black man. Next, he went to grab some lunch, but the diner refused to serve him unless he came to the back alley. He was shooed away from the theatre. 

The coin dropped for him; I can show the public what citizenship feels like as minority in the America of the 1940’s. He later struck up a conversation with Eva Watson, an African-American janitor in his building the same day. She was willing to have her picture taken by Parks in the lobby of the FSA building, and “American Gothic, Washington, D.C.” was born.**ibid

So here I am today, Lord, to watch and pray with You about Gordon Parks and his accomplishments in the arts. Let me reflect on how You are El Roi; the Strong One who Sees. You observe the events of time concurrently; past, present, and future. You see our externals, and our innermost thoughts and motivations.

I recall the promptings of the apostle Paul to the early church in Ephesus to use their hearts in “seeing”. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV**** I don’t know much about the spiritual life of Mr. Parks, but it is clear that You have downloaded this gift into him.

We give You thanks for this dualistic vision of Gordon Parks; to see people, places, and things in the light of eternity. We thank You that he instinctively saw value and meaning and dignity in the lives of those to whom society was blind. In his own way, he saw through the eyes of Christ.

Will You bless the inheritance given to Minnesota and the United States through the camera lens of Gordon Parks? Will You bless his figurative and literal children to see with the eyes of their hearts? Will You make us soft and receptive to these images of pain, beauty, unrest, and exaltation?

Forgive us, sweet Holy Spirit, we are flooded with images each day through our vices and devices, but we are still thirsty for one glance that inspires. Our conscience has cataracts and we don’t acknowledge the pure, the real, the noble, or Your pure light beaming into our eyes radiating from the faces of our neighbor. Help us, like Mr. Parks, to see because we have truly listened to the human actors in the drama of each day!

Come and heal our blindness! Come and let us hear! Open the eyes of our hearts in Minnesota so we can perceive the messages You are constantly sending to us through others. Open the apertures of our consciences so that we can also see inwardly. Add to our personal and cultural memory; click the shutter so we remember the moments when catch a glimpse of the Immortal and Invisible!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** You Tube. “Half Past Autumn; The Life and Works of Gordon Parks”. Published by On the Road. February 8, 2017. Producer Craig Rice. Writer Lou Rother. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzeuL0d5Z_s

*** This photo can be viewed at the current website of Frank Murphy Fashions. http://www.frankmurphyfashions.com/about/history/

**** https://biblehub.com/ephesians/1-18.htm

 

 

Standard
20th Century, Culture, History, Indian, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, music, Native Americans, omnipresent history, women

Densmore Begins Recording Indian Music 1907

Unknown-1

1907
Red Wing native Frances Densmore embarks on a life-long study of Indian music and culture. From a single recording of a performance by Kitchimakwa (“Great Bear”) at White Earth, she eventually collects thousands of songs of the Ojibwe, Dakota, and 10 other tribes. By the time of her death in 1957, Densmore will have also written 22 books and over 100 articles on Indian life.*

What a fascinating woman, Lord! I love the paradox that Ms. Densmore studied piano, organ, and harmony at Oberlin, and found joy in music of the people. Perhaps she is a testimony of her school’s philosophy?
Father, I’m grateful that by chance she read a book, that led her to her first experience with Indian music, that led into a passion.** I’m grateful that she took delight in listening, which is an inherent quality of great recording engineers, musicians, and producers. One adds a personal statement while listening to other players.
Will You bless Frances and her generations with her love of music and culture? Will You bless all the tribes she recorded with appreciation for her remarkable gift? Will You bless the all non-Native Minnesotans with ears to hear the importance of their voice in our common history?
As Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” May we listen to the music of each culture of this state, and so be enlivened! Amen!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!

**Explore more about Densmore at MPR feature “Song Catcher”. http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199702/01_smiths_densmore/docs/index.shtml

Standard
19th Century, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, music, omnipresent history

Dvorak Composes at Falls

unknown

1893

“Antonin Dvorak, the renowned Czech composer, visits Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. Inspired by the beauty of the scene, he composes a melody on the spot, writing the music on his starched shirt cuff. The “Minnehaha Theme” is featured as a violin line in Dvorak’s Sonatina in G Major, opus 100.” * 

The first name You describe Yourself with in the scriptures is “Elohim”, which means something akin to “Artist” or “Strong Creator”. Your signature is in, around, and through all creation. You have created living art that is capable of reproduction, yet each “copy” is a unique masterpiece?! Whether we view the nano particle level through microscopes, observe with our own eyes, or with powerful telescopes, we are in awe of the Master’s handiwork!

It is no wonder that Dvorak saw an inspiring scene at Minnehaha Falls. It’s beauty has been renowned by Minnesotans for generations. What is a wonder is his response; that this beauty is so valued that it is worth recording immediately without thought to practicality or cost. Thank You that Antonin instantly responded to the beauty presented to him.

Will You bless him, his family, and the nation of the Czech Republic? Will You bless his indirect generations of artists, composers, writers, and simply those who listen and respond to greatness? Will You bless this place and those who visit it in perpetuity?

Will You forgive us the judgments we as a people make on those who follow instinct? Will You forgive our judgments of those who pursue their visions, no matter how absurd or irrational they may appear? I believe it was the Celts who likened the Holy Spirit to the wild goose. Will You give us wisdom and discernment to support those on “a wild goose chase”?

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** Read more about Dvorak’s visit to these lovely falls? http://www.classicalmpr.org/story/2014/07/24/the-music-of-minnehaha-falls

*** Learn about a “wild goose chase”? http://thewildgooseisloose.com/why-wild-goose/

 

 

Standard