“A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks,” borrows the title of the pioneering photographer and filmmaker’s autobiography to explore his legacy as a visual artist. Director and producer John Maggio weaves together stories of contemporary Black photographers and filmmakers with Parks’ life story, tracing his journey from childhood poverty in Kansas to staff photographer at Life magazine in the late 1940s and Hollywood director of movies including “Shaft.” Maggio, who previously spotlighted Ben Bradlee in a 2017 documentary for HBO, intersperses commentary by notables such as Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with vintage clips of Parks speaking about the power of photography.
But his photos steal the show: Decades after Parks shot the images, they retain their power, whether it be a female janitor in the nation’s capital to a gang leader in Harlem. In advance of the documentary’s Nov. 15 debut on HBO, Variety asked Maggio to select his favorite Parks’ images and explain why he chose them.
“I picked up a camera because it was my choice of weapons against what I hated most about the universe: racism, intolerance, poverty,” Parks once explained. “I could have just as easily picked up a knife or a gun, like many of my childhood friends did,” he continued, “but I chose not to go that way.”
— Diane Garrett