successGordon Parks was a true pioneer. The first black staff photographer for Life Magazine—in an era when Life was the New York Yankees of American media—Parks was also the first black man to make a major Hollywood film, with 1969's The Learning Tree, which he followed up with Shaft. Parks blazed a trail that most every filmmaker, photographer and writer of color in this country followed. George Pitts, an accomplished photographer and director of photography in his own right, celebrates Parks' legacy.

"I met Gordon on several occasions, and I was always happy to do so. Going back to when I was a teen, I was obsessed with his work in Life magazine. You know, the New York Times obituary for Gordon mentioned that he was a self-taught photographer, and I don't want to make too much of that because many creative people, many artists in the black community, are self-taught and didn't go to the Berklee College of Music, or didn't go to Harvard. It seems to be a given in the black community that if the creativity is there, and the motivation is there, there will be some sort of hands-on, grassroots way to realize one's ambition. It's one of the recurrent themes in the history of artists in the black community.