A true renaissance man, Gordon Parks encompassed a swath of professions in the arts, including musical composition, screenwriting, poetry and film direction. The pursuit he followed with the most passion, however, was photography. Beginning with photo shoots for St. Paul department store Frank Murphy, Parks’ extraordinary career as a photographer led to his shooting for a wide variety of publications, including Vogue and a long contract with LIFE magazine, starting in the 1940s. Parks, who died in 2006, was the first black photographer to work at both magazines. He also worked for the Farm Security Administration, saying, “I had known poverty firsthand, but there I learned how to fight its evil—along with the evil of racism—with a camera.” Later, in the 1960s, with his movie The Learning Tree (based on his novel of the same title), Parks once again broke racial boundaries by becoming the first black director for a major Hollywood studio. A high school dropout, Parks eventually received critical acclaim for, among other things, directing the film Shaft, as well as more than 40 honorary doctorates.