Muhammad Ali sets a stylish tone for a Gordon Parks exhibition

A retrospective of the photojournalist’s portraits makes for an elegant contribution to the fight for civil rights

Muhammad Ali at Lord’s cricket ground in 1966, by Gordon Parks
Muhammad Ali at Lord’s cricket ground in 1966, by Gordon Parks | Image: Courtesy and © the Gordon Parks Foundation

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In 1966, pioneering African-American photojournalist and fashion photographer Gordon Parks was given an assignment by Life magazine to photograph the boxer Muhammad Ali when he visited London and Miami. Ali was at the height of his fame, having won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics – but his support of the black pride movement and his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war due to his faith were controversial to much of America. Parks, with his photojournalist’s eye for storytelling and his fashion photographer’s flair for style, captured moments that showed Ali as a sensitive and focused man – talking to a young child sitting on his lap or, here, standing in a sunny stairwell, deep in thought and sharply dressed. Ultimately, this helped shift public opinion around the athlete. Now the photographs, along with two other series by Parks, titled Segregation in the South and Black Muslims, will be on show in a retrospective at Alison Jacques Gallery in London. Together, the photos showcase Parks’s poignant contribution to the fight for civil rights.

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