Stacking Drums by Gordon Parks, (1944) | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I. Notes From My Mind's Eye

Visual Element : Lines


Writing about images has a way of deepening the insights you have into your own working methods and diversifying the role photography performs in your storytelling process

Line | Directing The Eye

A photograph is like a surrogate or time-capsule, used to recreate and preserve experiences, memories and conceptualized visions. Of the many visual elements needed to create cohesive compositions, the line is probably the most vital element in any body of work. Created using visual points or vertices, lines connect objects within a composition explicitly and implicitly creating shapes, contours, emphasis, patterns, textures and directional movement. They play the role of the guide, helping the audience navigate their way through the stories being conveyed by the artist.


Bessie Fontenelle and Richard Climb the Stairs by Gordon Parks , (1967) | New York

Black art is as important to me as it should be to you, if you are a black artist because it is the foundation upon which our art is able to exist today. Art history professors across the world can only teach us what they know which can be limiting when most have no cultural or experiential context to the life of black peoples across the African diaspora.

The Black Artist Is Dangerous. Black Art Controls The ‘Negroes’ Reality, Negates Negative Influences, And Creates Positive Influences. — Sonia Sanchez

Once we are able to understand the integral role the black artist plays in communicating the stories of the black body within our communities, the image making process will inevitably become more impactful.


Gordon Parks | 1912–2006

Hereafter, in sort of a raw thinking-out-loud manner, I will be exploring the ways Gordon Parks used the visual element previously defined to tell stories of experiences, memories and conceptualized visions within his photographs. My decision to choose Gordon Parks is simply a result of my admiration for his subtle use of elements which direct the audience’s attention to the subject or subjects, where you are confronted with a plethora of topics to internally discuss.

Stacking Drums : At First glance you immediately notice the 4 Subjects within the image for a couple of reasons. The Foreground is filled completely with the repetition of the Drums that form an implied line towards the subject. As our eye attempts to follow the direction of the implied lines out of the composition or image’s frame, our eye meets the light bulb at the very top of the image subtly redirected our attention back into the composition towards the 4 subjects. Keeping our eyes suspended on the subject, our focus is then stimulated by the implied movement of the subjects. Leaving us to piece together the meaning of Stacking Drums in 1944

Bessie Fontenelle and Richard Climb the Stairs : A Tour Guide to the main subject, the multi directional lines within this image unevenly splits our attention between the obscured tricycle and Bessie Fontenelle carrying Richard Fontenelle up a flight of stairs. Using the tricyle to piece together the age range of the child you quickly understand the potential relationship Richard had with Bessie. Relating this precious action back to a time where we as children were carried by our mothers softens the gaze, as we are outsiders looking in to an intimate moment between mother and child.


(Left) Department Store by Gordon Parks , 1956 | Mobile , Alabama — — (Right) American Gothic by Gordon Parks, (1942) | Washington, D.C.

In Department Store, Gordon Successfully uses lines to set priority within the image. Initially stopping at the “Colored Entrance” sign directly over the woman’s head for it’s bold colors help us gather details about the underlying story being told within the image. The diagonal line then takes our eye towards the brown woman first, then towards the brown child, finally finishing the story with a blurred image of a white woman. It is at this moment we are able to complete the story being told about a department store in 1956.

American Gothic : The stripes on the flag point to a subject precariously illuminated. Using light and darkness to cast harsh shadows helps to emulate a sort of twisted ethereal feeling of mystery and horror. When placed into context, the image’s location at the government’s Office of War information and the time period of 1942, further helps to illuminate the potential story meant to be told within the image.


Line | Storytelling

Gordon Park Successfully Makes Use Of the Visual Element , Line. Organizing the story within the photograph, he appropriately directs our attention towards the story being told. For photographers and artists of all walks of life, there is most definitely something to be learned from Gordon’s explicit and implicit use of lines within the storytelling process.

Until tomorrow,

🖖🏾 keep it weird my friends✌🏾


Be A Storyteller, Share Experiences, & Challenge Norms | Shoot With Intention

In The Comment Section Below | How is the line element used within Gordon Park’s ‘Ethel Sherrieff’ image?

Ethel Sharrieff by Gordon Parks , (1963) | Chicago

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