Gordon Parks - Harlem Gang Leaders, 1948, New York, Gelatin Silver
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GORDON PARKS (1912-2006)
Red and Herbie Levi at the Funeral of Maurice Gaines, Harlem, New York, 1948
10" x 8" (Image Size)
Silver Gelatin Print
“Harlem Gang Leader,” from 1948, was Parks’ second major assignment for LIFE. Parks spent a month with 17-year-old Red Jackson, the teenaged gang leader of the story’s title, and other members of the Midtowners gang. His goal, he once said, was to show that juvenile delinquents were teenagers whose lives could be turned around if the right social service agencies intervened. As Russell Lord, a curator at the New Orleans Museum of Art, has shown, Parks discovered that when he turned in his film to LIFE’s laboratories, he ceded control of his story to the magazine’s editors. While the tone of the published photo essay was generally sympathetic to Jackson and the other gang members, it emphasized violence and slighted the potential for rehabilitation. Parks learned his lesson. His eagerness to write the text that accompanied his future photographs reflected his desire to assert more control over their message.