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Exhibition documents the photographic relationship between Muhammad Ali and Gordon Parks
American Champion portfolio-Muhammad Ali Grimaces at Photographers, Miami, Florida 1970. Gordon Parks Foundation.

ATLANTA, GA.- Arnika Dawkins Gallery in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation presents, Gordon Parks American Champion. On view is a stunning portfolio of 12 images documenting the photographic relationship between "the Champ", Muhammad Ali, and world-renowned photographer Gordon Parks. While on assignment for Life magazine in London and Miami Parks completed two photo essays on Ali, one in 1966 and a second in 1970. As two of the most talented artists in their respected fields, this pairing resulted in extraordinary images revealing a pensive and tender side of Ali. The Gordon Parks Foundation recently released American Champion, a limited edition portfolio containing Parks’ photographs of Ali and a printed essay by David E. Little, Curator and Head of the Department of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Gordon Parks American Champion also features a survey spanning four decades of Parks’ career and includes some of his most famous photographs; American Gothic, Washington D.C., Muhammad Ali in Trains in Hyde Park, London, England as well as exquisite landscapes from his travels through Maine, Canada and Europe. Parks fostered relationships with his subjects and this was demonstrated by his natural ability to connect with almost anyone he encountered, regardless of class or race. Prior to shooting, Parks would spend long periods of time instilling in them a profound sense of trust and respect, which resulted in an intimacy and candidness in his photographs that is rarely seen.

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. As a young man he purchased a camera and taught himself to use it after seeing photographs of migrant workers published in magazines. Despite his lack of formal training, Parks found employment with the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.) from 1940-1943 and was tasked to document the social conditions of America. After the F.S.A. closed, Parks became a freelance photographer all the while he continued to pursue his passion for social documentation. He was the first African American staff photographer and writer for Life magazine, where he worked for two decades, as well as a freelance photographer for Vogue. In 1969, Parks became the first African American to direct a major Hollywood movie, based on his semi-autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree. He wrote and directed the screenplay and composed the score for the film. Parks' next film, Shaft, was one of the biggest box-office hits of 1971. Gordon Parks continued working until his death in 2006, winning numerous awards, including the National Media of Arts in 1988, and over fifty honorary doctorates.

Be one of the first to view this striking portfolio and also take a glimpse at some of Gordon Parks' most compelling images. Please join us for the opening reception on Friday, January 23, 2015. Gordon Parks American Champion will be on view, until March 28, 2015.

Arnika Dawkins Gallery is devoted to presenting fine art from both emerging and established photographers, specializing in images by African Americans and of African Americans. Launched in 2012, the gallery's objective is to provide an educational platform that supports this burgeoning community of talented artists.

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