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  • Aaron Cohen

Pratt Scholars Recognized at Gordon Parks Dialogues

On the morning of Saturday, October 28, recipients of the Gordon Parks Scholarship from Pratt Institute, Fashion Institute of Technology, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Purchase College, SUNY, and Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation gathered at Pratt to present work at the Gordon Parks Dialogues, a new platform that brings alumni of the scholarship together to discuss, question, and celebrate all things photography.

Scholars, Faculty, and Fellows of the program congregate for a photo after concluding the Dialogues. Parks, a renowned artist of many trades, is most well known for his documentary images during the Civil Rights Movement, opening a window into the African-American experience that deeply impacted contemporary culture and forever transformed photography. Gordon Parks used his camera as a “weapon of choice” to combat poverty and oppression, and the scholarship recognizes students whose work honors the significance and profundity of Parks’ own vision. Artists Devin Allen and Harriet Dedman, both inaugural Gordon Parks Fellows, delivered keynote talks focusing largely on the roles that social justice, activism, and representation play in photography and in how we consider the narratives of communities.

Allen, a Baltimore native, rose to notoriety with his pictures of protest, chaos, and heartbreak following the death of Freddie Gray, and cites Parks as a major inspiration in his street and sports work. He now provides cameras to children in Baltimore through an organization he founded, hoping to keep them on the right track. In his talk, he recounted growing up around drugs and violence and how those traumas clouded his aspirations for many years. Certain that photography saved his life, Allen wants to make sure the “door stays open” for future generations.

Dedman, hailing from Wales, was a lawyer in Hong Kong for six years, and one of the first on the scene to capture the Umbrella Revolution of 2014. Deciding to quit law and pursue photography, she boarded her flight with a Parks book in hand and turned her camera on Harlem — specifically, the same stretch of 123rd street Parks had documented 50 years prior. Dedman photographed the Brown family, developing a close connection with Trevor Brown (or “Young Trev”) during the project as she recorded his struggles with poverty and depression.

Left to right: Abbi Newfeld (‘18), Cheyenne Coleman (‘19), and Evalina Sundbye (‘20). Pratt students and Gordon Parks Scholars Abbi Newfeld (‘18), Cheyenne Coleman (‘19), and Evalina Sundbye (‘20) displayed various works and series at the event. In addition, the three described their personal processes, and posed questions for our future as artists in an ever-changing political climate. - Photos by Aaron Cohen


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