A Night for Gordon Parks and Other Greats

© Marc Bryan-Brown

Gordon Parks may not have been there in person, but at the awards event on Tuesday night, his memory was honored with the kindest of words. Not only was he the first African-American photographer to work for LIFE, but he also was an accomplished poet, musician, novelist, and director.

“His work was so unbelievable. It always inspired us, even when we were kids,” said Isabel Toledo. “I remember Ruben [Toledo] showing me pictures by Gordon Parks and I thought there was something special in his work.”

And while the conversations that night revolved around the memory of a great photographer, fashion insiders like Anna Wintour, Ralph Lauren, Isabella Rossellini, and Zac Posen were really at the Gordon Parks Foundation dinner at Gotham Hall to honor Isabel, Bruce Weber, Liya Kebede, and Russell Simmons for their impact on fashion.

© Marc Bryan-Brown

“It was such a great surprise,” said Liya of her award. “I’m quite humbled because I’m a big fan of who he is. He’s just an incredible person, and I’m in wonderful company.” That company included photographer Bruce, who walked in with a jovial attitude. This was his first moment back in New York after an extended absence. “I’ve been traveling on the road a lot and this is my first time back in the city, so I’m a little in shock. I have six dogs so we’re traveling and I’ve met some real American characters.”

Around the perimeter of the dinner space, images by celebrated photographers such as Peter Beard, Herb Ritts, and, of course, Gordon Parks were on auction. Bethann Hardison, who is working on her documentary cataloging the history of black women in fashion, Invisible Beauty, chatted with Russell and Zac immediately upon entering the hall. Talks turned to model obsession, as the designer expressed his love for Anna Cleveland, who just closed his resort show, while Bruce obsessed over Kate Moss. “I photographed her when she first came here. It was her first job, and we’ve traveled a lot together. I really love her as a friend.”

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