[GALLERY REVIEW] Choose to see “Weapons, Honor, and Dignity”

The current exhibit at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, “A Choice of Weapons, Honor and Dignity: The Visions of Gordon Parks and Jamel Shabazz,” features a stunning gallery of impactful photos that offers a personal view into inequality in America.

The gallery combines the work of two photographers: Gordon Parks and Jamel Shabazz. Renowned for his captivating documentation of poverty and segregation in the United States, Parks’ career inspired photographer Shabazz to also use photography to contradict traditional stereotypes surrounding diverse communities. A selection of their photos are displayed together in the gallery along with quotes from both photographers and commentary from students at Gordon Parks High School.

The photos are thematically moving and artistically interesting.”

The photos are thematically moving and artistically interesting. The anecdotes that are displayed around the gallery—typically related to the various stories behind the images—provide an interesting historical and personal aspect to the exhibit. The mixture of the two photographic styles serves to present a holistic story about the marginalized communities portrayed. The effect of the gallery is both sobering and hopeful in its demonstration of inequality and the struggles and achievements of those affected by it.

However, the inclusion of the quotes from Gordon Parks High School students lessened the overall impact of the display. The perspectives of the students were typically distracting and frequently lacked true or meaningful insight; often, the quotes were just a short description of the image and a brief analysis. While it would be interesting to read alternative perspectives, they could have been displayed in a way that detracted less from the overall impact of the images.

Nevertheless, the exhibit is definitely worth viewing. All of Gordon Parks’ photos are poignant and the addition of a younger photographer creates an interesting contrast between timeframes. The coupling of these photos demonstrates a unique method of using media to portray and bring awareness to struggling communities. 

The gallery will be open through Apr. 19 at the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

Rating: ★★★★☆