Saved by the light.
Students at Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul have reason to celebrate this month—it’s the centennial of the school’s namesake. Photographer, author, and film director, Parks came to St. Paul as a teenager in 1928. He attended Central High, but was often homeless and never graduated. Photography proved to be his salvation. "I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs," Parks said. His first big break came as a fashion photographer for the Frank Murphy store in downtown St. Paul; he eventually became one of Life magazine’s legendary photographers. The multi-talented Parks also wrote poetry, novels, memoirs and screenplays, and directed 10 films, including Shaft.
Pictured above: Parks once worked at the St. Paul Hotel as a bus boy. Today, his portrait hangs beside other famous Minnesotans in a place of honor inside the hotel.