a man looks into the distance while handling a large vat of grease.

Gordon Parks, The cooper’s room where the large drums and containers are reconditioned. Here a workman lifts a drum from a boiling lye solution which has cleaned from it grease and dust particles (detail), 1944, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Gordon Parks in Pittsburgh, 1944/1946

Gallery One

Through Gordon Parks’s photographs, this exhibition provides an insightful view of World War II–era United States that still resonates today. In March 1944 and September 1946, Parks (American, 1912–2006) traveled to Pittsburgh on assignment for the public relations department of the Standard Oil Company to photograph the Penola, Inc. grease plant in the Strip District. An established photographer known for his unparalleled humanist perspective, Parks was tasked with photographing the plant, its workers, and the range of their activities manufacturing lubricants to support US military efforts during World War II. The resulting photographs—dramatically staged and lit, striking in their compositions—endure as records of a challenging period in American history. Photographs in this exhibition will have specific relevance for members of the Pittsburgh community; local visitors might recognize acquaintances, family members, or even themselves in these images.

Gordon Parks in Pittsburgh, 1944/1946 is organized by Dan Leers, Curator of Photography.

The exhibition and its accompanying publication have been made possible through a partnership between Carnegie Museum of Art and the Gordon Parks Foundation.

Upcoming Programming

The exhibition will be paired with special programming and community events to spark engagement with this unexplored body of Parks’s photographs of the Steel City, with additional information forthcoming in early 2022.

Exhibition Images

Premier Partners:

Carnegie Museum of Art is supported by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.