About The Photographer
Don Sparks' work reflects a long career from the mid 50s through
the 70s as a part-time photographer doing freelance work. Growing up on Chicago’s South Side and raising a family in Hyde Park, the majority of Don’s work was shot in the Chicago area.
Covering multiple sports and other artistic and historical subjects, these rarely seen images include some of the great names in sport and the arts, as well as others less well known who made a historic contribution. (First and Onlys)
Don was a basketball player himself, playing at Lindbloom HS and Chicago Teachers College before traveling with black
teams that played against the Harlem Globetrotters in the South. He played with a number of athletes who later
played professional sports.
Don served in the Army 1952-54. He started taking photos
while he was stationed in Europe, his first camera being a German Voigtlander.
Don’s 30+ year career as a photographer included operating
his own studio, as well as working freelance for publications including SPORT, EBONY and JET. He was one of the first Black photographers to do assignments on a national basis.
Don captured 16 MLB Rookies of the Year, 19 NBA
Rookies of the Year, the NBA MVP for every year 1956-1983,
5 Heisman Trophy winners, 11 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year winners and countless Hall of Famers and Olympians.
Don also contributed to a number of books. ‘With Grief Acquainted’, a book of poetry by Stanford Winfield
Williamson, was part of a Smithsonian exhibit,
‘Profile of Poverty’. ‘Find the Key Man’ (Putnam) was a book
by Hal Higdon. One of his Buck O‘Neil images is on the cover of Buck’s book ‘I Was Right On Time’.
Over 200 of Don’s photos are in the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Negro League Museum and the Roberto Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh. One of his Roberto Clemente photos is in the current Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit ‘PICTURING AMERICA’S PASTIME’
Other photos are in the personal collections of persons like author Bill Kinsella (Field of Dreams) and entertainer Harry Belafonte.