Special Feature: Commencement 2013

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Exhibition Showcases Photos by Father and Daughter

“From Generation to Generation” provides a perspective of 40 years of student life

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May 22, 2013 | by Judy Moore
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John Block’s photos date back to his senior year show at the Dittmar Gallery 40 years ago.
John Block’s photos date back to his senior year show at the Dittmar Gallery 40 years ago.
John Block’s photos date back to his senior year show at the Dittmar Gallery 40 years ago.
Vanessa Gonzalez-Block’s photos features those she has encountered throughout her senior year.
Vanessa Gonzalez-Block’s photos features those she has encountered throughout her senior year.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A post-Father’s Day photography exhibition at Northwestern University in mid-June will showcase the works of an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and his soon-to-graduate “shutterbug” daughter. Exhibiting together during commencement week, the two photographers will provide a “then and now” perspective of 40 years of Northwestern student life.

From Generation to Generation,” June 18 through 24, is a collection of black and white photos from the early 1970s taken by Northwestern alumnus John Block when he was a student at the School of Education and Social Policy, and contemporary images by Vanessa Gonzalez-Block, a senior anthropology major and film and media studies minor. Vanessa graduates from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences on June 21. Her father was one of the Dittmar Memorial Gallery’s first exhibiting student artists.

The weeklong exhibition will take place at the Dittmar Gallery, located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The exhibition and an opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, are free and open to the public.

Father and daughter are energized and inspired by each other’s work.

John Block’s photographs date back to his senior year show at the Dittmar Gallery 40 years ago. “What's interesting is that with the passing years and styles, they carry some additional resonance,” said Block. “They are mostly candid, mostly of people in the throes of living their lives -- some enjoying, some in distress, some on the margins, some of friends and family of that time. This photography is how I began my professional life as a filmmaker/documentarian.” 

Vanessa Gonzalez-Block’s Northwestern photo portfolio features images of people she has “encountered, laughed with and learned from” throughout her senior year. “Some are a window into the life of a Northwestern student, while others are a testament to who I have chosen to surround myself with during my time here,” said Gonzalez-Block.

Chicago-born John Block pursued his passion for “street” photography while at Northwestern, where he also took his first film class. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Block worked as a television documentary and news magazine segment producer for 30 years, 26 of them at NBC News. Among other awards, he has won two National Emmy awards and The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, which honors the best in broadcast and digital reporting. Block left NBC three years ago to pursue independent documentary projects. Some of his documentaries have been inspired by and have included the help of his daughter, whose “especially sensitive eye and heart,” Block says “has taught me to look at life and issues in new and revelatory ways.”

Vanessa Gonzalez-Block is primarily a “people” photographer. Since her father’s photos papered the walls of their New Jersey home, she was introduced to photography as a child. She received her first Nikon film camera at age 14. Vanessa’s interest in photography turned into a passion at Northwestern after taking photography courses taught by Pamela Bannos, Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the department of art theory and practice. It will continue to be a big part of her life after graduation.

For more information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit Dittmar Memorial Gallery's website

Topics: Campus Life