By Jay Behrke

PLEASANTVILLE – With the recent passing of Muhammad Ali, two of the planet’s coolest people are now no longer with us. The other, Gordon Parks, was renowned as a Life photographer, author of “The Learning Tree,” and director of the film “Shaft.”

I knew him as a avid amateur tennis player because he paid me to play with him when I taught in Manhattan. Though in his mid-70s and severely hampered by bad knees, if I got the ball near him, his languid elegance smoothly returned it my way. He was regal, an imposing figure, much like the famous boxer in this exhibit.

Ali’s unparalleled agility – physically and verbally – comes through in Gordon’s revealing photos, as does the boxer’s ability to reach the public wherever he traveled. Ali was a man of the people. Gordon was a man who watched people with an uncanny eye. Lucky for all of us, once in a while he snapped a photo, too.

“Muhammad Ali: American Champion” is open now through September 24. Go to GordonParksFoundation.org for more information.


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