Camp Fern Rock (archer)

by Gordon Parks

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Artist Statement

Shot by Gordon Parks in the summer of 1943 at Camp Fern Rock in New York, this low-angle photograph captures the strength and serene stature of camper Loretta Gyles as she aims her arrow. While Parks often used his time with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to document widespread segregation, his summer camp series endeavored to subvert the implicitly racist imagery often associated with outdoor recreation and the American wilderness. The concept of summer camp originally emerged as a retreat for young white males, but interracial camps like Camp Fern Rock and Camp Nathan Hale were rare microcosms intended to advance integration and equality in the outdoors. At these camps, Gordon created images of black and white children eating, washing, and playing together that directly mirrored the settings of some of the most antagonistic racial unrest of the time, including restaurants, restrooms, and recreational areas. Gyles is cast as a dominant, independent figure, confident yet calm against the often racially-charged and contentious backdrop of a thicket of trees. Parks’s photograph shows a typical American teen thriving in social and spatial equity.

Why We Love It

In Camp Fern Rock (archer), camper Loretta Gyles aims her arrow out of shot. The composure and concentration on her face is captivating, a subtle squint in her eyes, her mouth slightly ajar as she steadies her bow. There’s so much strength in that fist in the fore, so much grace in her angled elbow. Parks’ shallow depth of field blurs the background, emphasizing Gyles against a rapt audience of trees (subverting the racially-charged, violent symbolism of trees in the process). She’s just a girl, but the low angle of the shot gives her a goddess-like presence — Diana the Huntress of upstate NY. That Parks has positioned her as a dominant, independent figure here is a radical act in and of itself, particularly when you consider the context: a camp that worked against the exclusion of People of Color from outdoor spaces ... Read more on the blog!

Details

+ Limited-edition, exclusive to 20x200
+ Museum quality: archival inks, 100% cotton rag paper unless noted
+ Handcrafted custom-framing is available

Our quoted dimensions are for the size of paper containing the images, not the printed image itself. We do not alter the aspect ratio, nor do we crop or resize the artists’ originals. All of our prints have a minimum border of .5 inches to allow for framing.

Medium:

Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta

Edition Structure:
8"x8" | edition of 10
11"x11" | edition of 200
16"x16" | edition of 25

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks was a photographer, musician, writer, and film director. His best-known work was in documentary photojournalism, consisting of images he made in the U.S. from the 1940s to the 1970s, focusing on issues of civil rights, poverty, and the lives of African-Americans. His work as a photographer and filmmaker was barrier-breaking: he was the first African-American photographer at LIFE and Vogue, and one of the first African-Americans to produce and direct major motion pictures such as Shaft.  Parks was born in 1912 into a poor and segregated life in Kansas. Drawn to photography after seeing images of migrant workers in a magazine, he picked up... Read More
a camera from a pawnshop and taught himself to use it. Despite a lack of formal training, he was hired by the Farm Security Administration. It was there Parks developed his style, creating powerful images that explored the socioeconomic impact of racism. After the FSA closed, Parks worked as a freelance photographer, shooting for both fashion magazines and photographing humanitarian issues. He was hired at LIFE Magazine, where he would remain for twenty years and for whom he would create a wide range of iconic images. Many of these photographs became symbols of activism, rallying support for the growing Civil Rights Movement, which Parks believed in deeply and documented often. Over the course of his career, Parks won numerous awards, gained over fifty honorary doctorates, directed several films, and wrote a best-selling novel. He continued photographing until his death in 2006.
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