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Harvey Turner, grease maker, weighing lime. When added to the grease, lime gives it body.

The African American photographer, writer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks was able to break the boundaries of racism, while at the same time commenting on its place in American society. The youngest of fifteen children from a poor Kansas family, he took up photography at the age of fifteen and won the first Julius Rosenwald Fellowship Award for photography seven years later. This success led to his hiring by Roy E. Stryker for the Farm Security Administration’s depression-era photography project. As the only black photographer on staff, Parks brought a unique perspective on the lives of African-Americans. This photograph is from Parks’s 1946 series taken at the Pittsburgh Grease Company. Many photos from this series featured the company’s black employees; here, a worker weighing out white powder (lime) is presented with an air of great dignity and determination.

This work, one of twenty-nine by Parks in the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection, is part of a holding of over eight hundred photographs presented to Henry Holmes Smith, Indiana University’s first professor of photography, by Roy Stryker from his personal study collection.

All of our works by Gordon Parks can be found on the museum’s African American Art web module.

Gordon Parks
American, 1912–2006
Harvey Turner, grease maker, weighing lime. When added to the grease, lime gives it body.
September 1946
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 7 5/8 x 7 7/16 in. (19.3 x 18.8 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Henry Holmes Smith Archive, 200. XX.6.21

Large image not available.