This photograph is from Gordon Parks’ series on segregation. What I find particularly compelling about this series is the fact that Parks shows segregation in a way that we have never seen it before—in bright colors and pastels, on sunny days with people dressed in their best. Somehow, the inclusion of color and fashion into the scenes of segregation makes the scenes that much more uncomfortable for the viewer. As I look at this scene, my eyes go from the little pleated pink dress to the father’s sunglasses, to the woman’s skirt—I find myself admiring their fashion. I feel like I have an idea of the family’s tastes, their values, their home life.
Parks showed America that this family was no different from any other American family, which is why, when your eye finally looks past the family and finds the “White Only” water fountain, this subtle, everyday-seeming scene becomes that much more powerful.