Gordon Parks

Muhammad Ali
1966

Not on view

Taken by Gordon Parks for a Life magazine spread on Muhammad Ali, this photograph captures the legendary boxer just after his successful 1966 heavyweight title defense over Henry Cooper in London. This image is characteristic of Parks’s documentary approach. Seated with his head bowed and his hands bandaged, Ali appears as a mythic figure, simultaneously battle-worn and composed. This heroic depiction may reflect Ali’s activities outside of the ring as much as his victories as a boxer. Around the time of the photograph, he was making headlines for his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War, an action which made him a hero to some and a villain to others. Further, as a member of the Nation of Islam, Ali had, two years earlier, sparked public controversy by changing his name from Cassius Clay. Following Ali’s match with Henry Cooper, Parks wrote: “In London I witnessed the destruction of Cooper. Afterward at a press conference, Ali said, ‘Now that I have done what I came here to do, I’m going back home.’ Home. He said it in a way that rang softly of contrition. A new and great black hero was slowly emerging.”

Artist
Gordon Parks

Title
Muhammad Ali

Date
1966

Classification
Photographs

Medium
Gelatin silver print

Dimensions
Overall: 13 5/16 × 9 1/4 in. (33.8 × 23.5 cm)

Edition information
16/24



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