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Ryerson University’s newest exhibition is centred on a photo essay by renowned U.S. photojournalist Gordon Parks, while also taking an uncomfortable look at the role journalism can have on the communities its practitioners aim to help. For a Life magazine assignment in 1961, Parks flew to Brazil to document the da Silva family, who lived in a favela near a wealthy neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro. The published images struck an emotional chord with the public in the United States and almost US$30,000 was donated by readers to the family, which ultimately lead to a “rescue effort” that relocated them to a new home. But in Brazil, the essay sparked such controversy that a photographer was sent in retaliation to document the poverty in New York. What remains still today are Parks’ remarkable photographs that show his unparalleled ability to capture intimacy in the lives of those he documented. The exhibition runs until Dec. 9.

Gordon Parks, Untitled. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1999.

Gordon Parks, Untitled, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1999, contact sheet. Courtesy of The Gordon Parks Foundation.

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