December 2000

 Gordon Parks

To be honest, the only reason that I wanted to go to the LA screening of Half Past Autumn: Life and Works of Gordon Parks was because I wanted to meet the legendary photographer-director-composer-novelist. If I had just wanted to see the documentary I could have just stayed home and waited for its debut on HBO.

Instead I found myself one night in October jostling for position among others who wanted to see Parks in person. Starstruck fans had to stand in line to give Parks his props. Actor Levar Burton was just in front of me. I was able to get a former Newsweek photographer I know to introduce us. Yes, I got what I came for at the reception before the screening. But the true highlight of the evening was watching the documentary itself.

Parks exemplifies a person who stars in his own life. The director of the original Shaft was also very much the director of his dreams. Jobs he had in the early days included busboy and semi-pro basketball player. But he had another lifescript in mind.

While working as a waiter on the railways Parks would go to museums instead of partying. His studies of light and composition were helpful when he bought his first camera. A clerk at Eastman Kodak was so impressed by the images on his first roll that he told Parks that if he kept it up he would get his own photography exhibit. He did, so he did. Emboldened by his success Parks went to the finest dress store he knew and proposed doing a fashion shoot. The male white owner was in the process of kicking him out when his wife intervened and decided to take Parks up on his proposal.

Parks admits that he did not know if he could do the job. But thatís what stars do, they stretch themselves. Parks had no previous fashion experience. Perhaps even more importantly, he had no camera, no lights, and no film. Overnight he was able to get all of the above from a friend. Thatís also what stars do. They make things happen.

The next day Parks shot his heart out with the borrowed camera. Problem was that when he developed the prints all but one was double exposed. But a crisis point is not when a star packs it in. Parks was no exception. He called the same friend who had lent him the camera and asked him to make a 16x20 print of the one surviving photo overnight. Parksís plan was to put that blow up on an easel and greet the storeowners with it.

The photo was stunning. The shop keepers were so impressed that they had Parks do it again, this time without the double exposures.

Parks went on to shoot for Vogue. But perhaps he is even more famous for his tenure as a star photographer at Life magazine.

So while yes it was a thrill to meet him. It was even more inspiring to see the evolution of a star.

Half Past Autumn: Life and Works of Gordon Parks is now playing on HBO.

 

Let me know about your stellar performances. All aspiring stars are welcome to visit me at www.nozizwe.com.


About the author

It would take a pretty inventive casting agent to cast multi-award-winning TV journalist and author Lena Nozizwe in the role she has taken on for this lifetime. Her life reads like an improbable movie script. She was born in a tiny village in Malawi, Africa. Her family came to the United States so that her mother, Dr. Alice Princess Msumba Siwundhla, could be featured on the television program "This is Your Life." Nozizwe grew up to broadcast to the global village. Nozizwe has interviewed hundreds of stars from the worlds of music, art, politics, sports, movies and television. You may have seen her as a reporter or co-host on Fox, CBS, ESPN or SKY-TV.

Nozizwe has now cast herself as an author. Look for the upcoming publication of her motivational book, Starring in Your Own Life: Creating the Role of a Lifetime™. The book will be filled with more than 1000 tips on ways of bringing star quality into your life.

Copyright Lena Nozizwe 2000


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