Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks became a celebrated photographer, writer, musician and filmmaker. In his work for Life magazine between 1948 and 1961, he photographed everything from Harlem street gangs to Paris fashions. This image was inspired by Ralph Ellison's book Invisible Man (1952). Ellison's novel explores the quest for identity of an unnamed African-American protagonist who lives alone in an underground room, his invisibility the result of a society that refuses to acknowledge his existence. Parks' photograph of a figure emerging from a manhole-a poetic fiction created in collaboration with Ellison-powerfully evokes this sense of emotional isolation.