Jesús Costantino, professor in American Literary Studies, has published an essay examining the commercial fashion photography and documentary work of the African-American photographer, filmmaker, memoirist, and poet Gordon Parks. In the essay, “Harlem in Furs,” Professor Costantino claims that the fashion photography of Gordon Parks provides crucial insight into the ways in which clothing and the fashion industry factored into the Civil Rights Movement. In an examination of Parks’s fashion work for outlets like Vogue alongside his documentary work for outlets like Life and Ebony, Professor Costantino argues that commercial fashion informed Parks’s thinking about racial politics, and vice versa. From his iconic reimagining of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” for the Farm Security Administration to his powerful photo-essay on segregation in the South for Life magazine, Gordon Parks ever had an eye for what his photographed subjects wore, how they wore it, and how it signified their personhood.
The essay can be found in the November 2016 issue of Modernism/modernity, the premier journal for the field of modernist studies.