Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/11/19 – After 50 years American photographer’s Gordon Parks famous subject came back to America to see his life on display at The Getty Museum. Now at age 70, Flávio da Silva returned to honor the assignment to document poverty in Brazil for Life Magazine by the late Gordon Parks by being present for the public to meet him. It was a moving treat and for an hour it felt like history stood still and was suspended in time. You could see the young boy’s pain and joy etched into the older man’s lined and bespectacled face. One could feel his life and energy flow by ever so gently.
On March 13, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the Alliance for Progress, an economic assistance program to promote political democracy, economic growth, and social justice in Latin America. Fidel Castro had transformed the Cuban Revolution into an anti-American movement and had allied his nation with the Soviet Union. U.S. officials feared that the lower classes of Latin America, mired in poverty and injustice, might follow similarly radical leaders.
The thrill of a time in history when President John F. Kennedy had sanctioned funds to address the poverty situation in South America fell to a retired photographer grabbed the opportunity from his boss at Life Magazine to go on assignment to document the poor in Brazil. That man was African American Gordon Parks who felt he had found one of the most important subjects of his career in Rio: Flávio da Silva.
Da Silva was a young boy (eldest of eight children), heavily asthmatic and lived with his family in one of Rio’s working-class neighborhoods known as favelas. Gordon’s ten-page spread instantly became a famous and heart-rending 1961 photo essay entitled: “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty.” The result of the publication of the series brought donations from around-the-globe but it also sparked controversy in Brazil.
The exhibition traces over the extraordinary timeline and chain of events that were triggered by Parks’ representation of Flávio over several decades. It almost became the beginning and end of a time when photography was seen by the public – much like a documentary or a long-form story – with pictures as how they received important information about our world.
It was raw, in-your-face and done with a brilliant snap of a shutter as you’ll see how Parks takes us through the lifetime of a young boy in a country that still – to this day – Flávio says, “It’s the same today. After all of this time. Nothing has changed.” He went on to speak of the many children and people who didn’t live to see another day yet he was brought here to America at aged 12 for two years to reside in a hospital that specialized in asthma. He was given a foster family and within a month he says he learned English and went to school, wrote letters home and got stronger. He was cured of his asthma and returned to Brazil. The story you can see at the exhibit and follow as you move to each room containing more information about Parks’ incredible life with this young boy-to-man as his guide and it seems, his conscience.
To Parks, no stranger to American poverty – Flávio and his family embodied the brutality of such impoverished living conditions and quickly focused his camera on the family and people surrounding them. The exhibit is haunting, educational and serves as a reminder that today isn’t different, again, from yesterday. Yet, with this richly woven tale, tremors of hope glimmer for a bit as Flávio talks about how very thankful he is and was to be here and to be able to talk to people about his incredible life.
Remarkable are the feelings this exhibit evokes between two people who tap into the oneness of it all with respect and kindness trying to make a difference to find a cure – but there is none – or as George Carlin once said something along the lines of – “It’s a club and you’re not in it.” – referring to why we don’t move forward and continually move backwards.
But strive and try we must to keep hope alive. Onward and upward, to look but not to linger. Gordon Parks is gone but his legacy and foundation live on with what he felt was his most important work.
About the exhibitions:
Once. Again. Photographs in Series
July 9–November 10, 2019
Photographers often record change through images in series, registering transformations in the world around them. This exhibition features both historical and contemporary artists who have photographed faces and places over minutes, months, or years. Their artworks prompt reflection on the ways the passage of time impacts how we see people and spaces.
Getty Information: http://www.getty.edu/
Exhibit runs July 9 – November 10, 2019
The Getty is located at: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049