artist / participant

press release

Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story
9 July - 10 November 2019

The exhibition explores one of the most significant projects of the American photographer's career and traces the extraordinary sequence of events that it generated.

An accomplished filmmaker, composer, writer and poet, Parks is best remembered for his prolific career as a photographer, in particular his two-decade tenure at Life magazine. In 1961 Parks was sent on assignment to Brazil to document the working-class neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro. It was here that he encountered an industrious, severely asthmatic twelve-year-old boy called Flávio da Silva, who became the central figure in his large-scale photo essay “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty.” Parks spent many weeks taking photographs of Flávio’s daily life with his parents and seven siblings. The response to these images upon their publication was unprecedented, with thousands of the magazine’s readers sending letters and donations to Flávio and his family. The photo-essay also sparked controversy, resulting in the Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro commissioning a photographic report on a poverty-stricken community in New York, where Life was headquartered.

Parks would go on to photograph Flávio over several decades and considered these photographs to be among his most important achievements.

In addition to more than 100 photographs, including outtakes from the assignment, the exhibition will include original issues of Life, as well as correspondence and records held by Parks.

Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story is co-organised by the Getty and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Canada, in partnership with Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil, and The Gordon Parks Foundation, New York