Kendrick Lamar's 'ELEMENT' Music Video Pays Tribute to the Photography of Gordon Parks

Kendrick Lamar's newest music video, "ELEMENT," was released this week. The video is directed by Jonas Lindstroem and The Little Homies (aka Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free) and takes Photographer Gordon Parks' iconic imagery and breathes new life via video. I'm not sure how many of our readers listen to Kendrick Lamar, but you should. He's brilliant, in both lyric and music video direction.

Gordon Parks was an African American photographer who is best remembered for his photographs from the 1940s of poor Americans while on assignment for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). He was the first African American photographer to shoot for the magazines Life and Vogue and the first African American to produce and direct Hollywood films ("The Learning Tree" in 1969, and "Shaft" in 1971). 

Gordon Parks - American Gothic

Lamar's meticulous attention to detail is apparent in this beautifully shot film. The juxtaposition of violence and innocence is a nod to his life, the following lyrics from the song sum it up: "Thought that K-Dot real life was the same life they see on TV, huh?" Some of Parks' images referenced are UntitledEthel Sharrieff, and 1963 photo Boy With Junebug. Below, you can see some side by side comparisons. 

The lighting, the mood, the slow motion: everything about this music video is so beautiful. My favorite shot compared below wasn't a photo from Parks' collection, but Lamar was obviously inspired by the lives of the 1940s and 1950s. History repeats itself; there are too many similarities to the past today, which is both sad and beautiful as the imagery shows in the video. 

If you've not seen his other videos from his album "DAMN.," watch them now. 

[via NPR]

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3 Comments

Roger Batchelor Jr's picture

Thank you for calling this video out as well as the work of Gordon Parks.

Chelsey Rogers's picture

You would be a fool not too, easily some of the most cinematic music videos, well ever really.

Kendrick Lamar is one of the best of the younger rappers, awesome to see his artistic vision flows into a true appreciation photography.. he's no mumbler