This photograph was part of Gordon Parks’s 1956 photo essay for Life Magazine documenting the life of the Thornton family under segregation in Alabama. The essay served as crucial documentation of the Jim Crow South and acted as a national platform for challenging racial inequality. However, his images look quite different from many other iconic civil rights photographs. In an era when the primary medium for documentary photography was black-and-white film, Parks instead chose to present these quiet images of domestic life in full color.
His choice of subject matter further sets this series apart from others of the period. Rather than focusing on the demonstrations, boycotts, and brutality that characterized the battle for racial justice, Parks emphasized the prosaic details of one family’s life. In particular, his ability to elicit empathy through an emphasis on intimacy and shared human experience made them especially poignant.