Billy Weeks, a two-time winner of the Gordon Parks International Photography award, will speak on the influential photographer Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 2:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. Weeks’ talk will focus on “the moment where the photographer past interacts with the subject present. In other words, what is it that attracts the photographer to make an image?” he said.
The talk complements an exhibit of photographs from a Life magazine 1956 photo essay on segregation in the South that will be on view in the Hargrett Library Gallery in the Russell Building Jan. 25 – March 31. “Gordon Parks Confronts the Color Line” showed life in African-American communities two years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Hargrett exhibit is one of a series of exhibitions installed around Athens under the umbrella “Pictures of Us: Photographs from The Do Good Fund Collection,” which is part of the Global Georgia Initiative of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts.
“Gordon Parks once said, ‘The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer,’” Weeks said. “He went on to photograph important issues related to social justice.”
“I saw Park’s work early in my journalism career and it struck a nerve. His storytelling offered so many questions that have challenged me to find answerers in my own work. I believe that Gordon Parks has challenged a generation of photographers to be visual humanitarians,” he said.
Weeks has worked as a journalist for over 30 years. His career started with the Chattanooga Times in 1984 as a staff photographer. In 1995, he became the Photo Team Leader, and in 1999 he was named Director of Photography/Graphics at The Chattanooga Times Free Press. In 2010 he became an independent documentary photographer. As a photojournalist, Weeks has covered assignments that range from the World Series to small villages in Central America. His photographs of poverty in Honduras were selected as an award of Excellence for editorial photography in the Communication Arts Photography Annual. Additionally, he has won the Gordon Parks International Photography award twice and was a finalist seven times. His photographs of baseball in the Dominican Republic and Central America were featured by CNN and Photography District News.
Weeks has served as an adjunct instructor in photojournalism at Southern Adventist University for the last 24 years and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for three years. He has been a visiting speaker at many universities and a presenter at the Southern Short Course for photojournalism.
Gordon Parks received the National Medal of Arts in 1988 and received more than 50 honorary doctorates. Parks died in 2006.
Parks was the first Africa-American staff member for Life magazine, where he covered the Civil Rights movement for two decades. He also distinguished himself in fashion photography.
As a filmmaker, he was the first African-American to direct a major Hollywood production with the memoir of his youth “The Learning Tree,” filmed on location in Fort Scott, Kansas. Parks also directed the 1970 film, Shaft, the first of what came to be known as “blaxploitation” films.