Parker earned a BA from San Francisco State College in 1964 and an MA from the University of California at Davis in 1966.
In 1980s Parker was the director of the Sonoma State University Art Gallery; he was curator of photography for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (since 1977). Parker was assistant professor of art and art gallery director at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in 1975, and in 1974 was a lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute. Between 1972 and 1974 he was executive director for the Friends of Photography. At the same time he was also curatorial adviser for photography at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, having served as their exhibitions coordinator and curator of prints, drawings and photographs from 1969 to 1972. From 1966 to 1969 he was director of the Memorial Union Art Gallery at the University of California, Davis.
A member of SPE since 1969, Parker served as its national vice-chairman from 1973 to 1975.