T/I 2Col 1

In the 1940s, Gordon Parks transformed himself from from a self-taught photographer to a groundbreaking photographer in the field of photojournalism. Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks was drawn to photography as a young man. His earliest work was as a professional photographer was shooting fashion for a department store in St. Paul, Minnesota. This experience led him to Chicago, where he set up a portrait studio in the city's South Side Community Art Center. Despite his lack of professional training, he won a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship for his photography in 1942; this led to a position with the photography section of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in Washington, D.C., and, later, the Office of War Information (OWI). 

One of Gordon Parks’s earliest photographs, which today stands out as a benchmark of that to come, was made in late 1941 during the first dark days of World War II for a Christmas fundraiser held at Chicago's South Side Community Art Center Christmas. This seemingly simple portrait of a committed, community-engaged mother, Laura Dorothy Vaughn Taylor, and her two teenage daughters, Lauranita Taylor Dugas and Barbara Taylor Bowman, unveils Parks’s early exploration of the elements of character, strategic lighting and dynamic composition, which became so important to his later and better known work for the Farm Security Administration, Office of War Information, Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), and Life magazine. In 2018, The National Gallery of Art organized Gordon Parks: The New Tide, 1940-1950, the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Parks’s first ten years as a photographer. The exhibition and its accompanying book will document the importance of these early years in shaping Parks’s innovative and influential vision.

section 1

Gordon Parks, Laura Dorothy Vaughn and her children, Lauranita and Barbara, Chicago, Illinois, 1941. Private collection.

Section 2

Barbara Taylor Bowman

Barbara Taylor Bowman, seen at bottom of right of Parks's 1941 photograph, was one of the many individuals who came through Parks's portrait studio during the early years of his career. Ms. Bowman is the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development at Erikson Institute. She is one of the Institute’s founders and served as its president from 1994 to 2001. She has over 50 publications, including articles, book chapters and edited volumes and her specialty areas are early education, cultural diversity and education of children at-risk. She was Chief Officer for Early Childhood Education at the Chicago Public Schools from 2004 to 2012. Bowman has worked on a number of research and training projects, including those on Native American reservations, St. Louis Public Schools and Chicago Child Parent Centers.  She has served on numerous professional boards and committees, including the boards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, of which she was President (1980-82), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (1997-2002), panels for the National Research Council (she chaired the committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy) and committees for the Black Child Development Institute. She is a frequent consultant on early care and education, is a speaker at conferences and at universities in the United States and has served on editorial boards.  Honors include six honorary doctorates, the McGraw Hill Prize in Education, the Sargent Shriver Award for Equal Justice, the Chicago Historical Society Jane Addams award and a Golden Apple for Community Service. At present, she teaches and supervises students at Erikson Institute, is a member of the President’s Commission for Educational Excellence for African Americans and the Illinois Early Learning Council, is a commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, is on the boards of trustees for the Great Books Foundation, Business People in the Public Interest, and Erikson Institute and is on advisory committees for the Fred Roger’s Center and Frank Porter Graham Institute.

Barbara Taylor Bowman was honored at The Gordon Parks Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner and Auction held on June 6, 2017.


Valerie Jarrett, Eric Schneiderman, Barbara Bowman, Ronald Perelman, Peter Kunhardt Jr. Photo by Owen Hoffmann/PMC