And Anderson once again wrote about Mr. Parks. This time on CNN.com ~
Pioneering photographer inspired Anderson Cooper
November 19, 2010
"Before I even knew what the word cool meant, I knew Gordon Parks was cool." CNN's Anderson Cooper
(CNN) -- Since 2007, Anderson Cooper has hosted "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," a gala that honors the Top 10 CNN Heroes of the year.
In preparation for this year's show, CNN asked Cooper for his thoughts about the event and who he admires.
CNN: Who is your personal hero?
Anderson Cooper: Growing up, I had someone who was sort of a mentor who was really a hero to me -- a man named Gordon Parks, who actually was quite famous. He was the first African-American photographer for Life magazine, first African-American to direct a major Hollywood picture ("The Learning Tree" in 1969). And he passed away just a few years ago, and he's somebody who still to this day I think of often.
CNN: Why do you think Gordon Parks was heroic?
Cooper: Gordon Parks was a guy who was born into nothing. ... There was no strong family. There was no one telling him how he should be and what steps he should take. You know, there's that term, you pull yourself up from your own bootstraps? Well, he built his own bootstraps.
And he felt something inside of him that pushed him to pick up a camera. And to start taking pictures. And then to get himself to be the first African-American photographer at Life magazine. And to take some of the pictures he did, and what he told us in the story of his pictures ... he told stories that Life magazine wasn't covering before. Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. And gangs in Harlem. And Gordon could get access that other people couldn't get.
And yet what I found so heroic about him is that he had such a decent heart. And he was driven. But it wasn't a drive purely about himself. It wasn't a drive to make the most money. It was a drive to give back and a drive to sort of give voice to the feelings inside him, whether that was through photography or through poetry or through writing.
He wrote best-selling books. Directed films (including "Shaft" in 1971). He was truly a Renaissance man.
It's always very interesting to me why some people have that inner drive and that push forward. And he certainly did. And there was no reason for him to have it. He could have had every excuse in the book for not accomplishing something with his life, but he lived many lives and he accomplished things in all of those lives. And I think that he was a true hero.
CNN: Sounds like Gordon Parks had quite an impact on you.
Cooper: I think he's the person who probably put the spark in me about reporting and about getting out there and seeing the world. He took photographs in Brazil and in the favellas in Rio and wrote books about one of the young men he met there. There were just so many stories that he would tell. And he was such a cool character. He was so incredibly dashing. He was the coolest guy. Before I even knew what the word cool meant, I knew Gordon Parks was cool.