Okayplayer shed light yesterday (June 28) on how Kendrick Lamar recreated several of late photographer and visual artist Gordon Parks’ works for his “Element” music video. Today (June 29), the director of Parks’ namesake foundation commended K-Dot’s use of the art.
“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to see Kendrick Lamar recognize Gordon Parks’ important photography while working at Life Magazine and honoring his legacy,” foundation executive director Peter W. Kunhardt Jr. told Okayplayer.
Much of Parks’ photojournalistic work captured Black community life, poverty and resistance between the 1940s and 1970s. The “Element” video, adapted four specific photos into its collage of slow-motion clips depicting similar subject matter: “Ethel Sharrieff,” ”Black Muslims Train in Self-Defense,” ”Untitled” and “Boy With June Bug.” Screenshots of the images appear in the above Instagram post. Okayplayer says Parks shot “Boy With June Bug” during a 1963 visit to his Fort Scott, Kansas, hometown, and Kunhardt cites its recreation as his favorite “Element” scene.
“That was one of Gordon’s photos he did while he was working on [his semi-autobiographical novel] ‘The Learning Tree,’” Kunhardt said. “So to see a contemporary artist like Kendrick see and understand the importance of that work spoke the most to me. It was so important to Gordon.”
Parks identified that child as “Newt” in “The Learning Tree,” which he turned into a 1969 film of the same name that made him Hollywood’s first Black director of a major film.
K-Dot directed the video with Dave Free under their moniker The Little Homies (“i”) alongside German photographer Jonas Lindstroem. Check out the “Element” video below, and learn more about Gordon Parks’ work on the foundation’s website.