Parks also wrote the screenplay and composed the musical score for the film, with assistance from his friend, the composer Henry Brant.Shaft, a 1971 detective film directed by Parks and starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, became a major hit that spawned a series of films that would be labeled as blaxploitation.
He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor Americans during the 1940s (taken for a federal government project), for his photographic essays for Life magazine, and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft. Parks related in a documentary on his life that his teacher told him that his desire to go to college would be a waste of money.
When Parks was eleven years old, three white boys threw him into the Marmaton River, knowing he couldn't swim.
In the 1950s, Parks worked as a consultant on various Hollywood productions.
He later directed a series of documentaries on black ghetto life that were commissioned by National Educational Television.
Parks said later that his first image was overdone and not subtle; other commentators have argued that it drew strength from its polemical nature and its duality of victim and survivor, and thus affected far more people than his subsequent pictures of Mrs. (Parks' overall body of work for the federal government—using his camera "as a weapon"—would draw far more attention from contemporaries and historians than that of all other black photographers in federal service at the time.
Today, most historians reviewing federally commissioned black photographers of that era focus almost exclusively on Parks.) He would later follow Stryker to the Standard Oil Photography Project in New Jersey, which assigned photographers to take pictures of small towns and industrial centers.
Despite racist attitudes of the day, Vogue editor, Liberman, hired him to shoot a collection of evening gowns.
Parks photographed fashion for Vogue for the next few years and he developed the distinctive style of photographing his models in motion rather than in static poses.
Struggling to survive, he worked in brothels, and as a singer, piano player, bus boy, traveling waiter, and semi-pro basketball player. The photography clerks who developed Parks's first roll of film applauded his work and prompted him to seek a fashion assignment at a women's clothing store in St. Those photographs caught the eye of Marva Louis, wife of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
She encouraged Parks and his wife, Sally Alvis, to move to Chicago in 1940, where he began a portrait business and specialized in photographs of society women.