Academics John Willis - Photography
Contact John Willis; 802-258-9272
John Willis teaches photography to students who find interesting ways to combine fine arts photography with academic work. John’s teaching credits include the Boston Museum School, the Zone VI workshops, and Harvard University. He also co-founded In-sight, a Brattleboro-based project that uses photography as a medium for reaching out to local young people.
John sees the classroom as a place for constructive criticism. "The discipline of fine art photography requires a fine blend of technical and expressive concerns," he says. "As an artist and a teacher I am constantly seeking new ways to execute this blend." John challenges his students to take photographs that comment on the images they capture. A recent project for advanced students involved photographing residents in a local nursing home; an emotional assignment for some, but one that helped students appreciate the tragedy as well as the beauty that often lies on the other side of the lens.
Student Plans and Collaborations
- Exposures: Cross-Cultural Photography Journeys for Youth. John co-founded this program with Marlboro students, and the current director, Erin Barnard '03, is one of his former students and co-founders. In 2010, John took three Marlboro students to the Pine Ridge Reservation as part of a community engagement grant, to help set up an online youth curriculum.
- A critical investigation into the ethical issues surrounding representation in documentary photography. Marcus DeSieno '10, photography.
- An exploration of how gendered identity is created in a mass-mediated society, drawing on socio-historical analysis and photography. Lucy DeLaurentis '10, photography & American studies.
- An exploration, through writing and photography, of the possibility of finding meaning in loss, especially as it relates to family. Michael Hamby '10, writing/photography.
John’s own work has been widely exhibited, and is in the permanent collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He describes his photography as "a mix of documentary and human images which comment on the human condition." In 2010 he published A View from the Rez (Center for American Places), a monograph of photographs and commentary developed in collaboration with people in the Oglala Lakota Sioux community at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. He collaborated with artist Tom Young on Recycled Realities, also published by the Center for American Places and Columbia College, in 2006. John was a featured photographer in the February/March 20065 issue of Watershed Magazine, and was also featured in the book Place, Art, and Self by Yi-Fu Tuan. He has participated in several Freeman Foundation-supported academic trips to Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan.
John is co-founder and executive director of In-Sight Photography Project, in Brattleboro, Vermont, a volunteer program offering free classes for area youth to explore self-expression through photography. Many Marlboro students have contributed over the years as interns at In-Sight. John also co-founded and co-directs Exposures: Cross Cultural Photographic Journeys for Youth, bringing participants from Vermont and the Bronx to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The participants shared photography lessons and life stories with each other in an effort to expand artistic and cultural horizons.
Find a list of collections and exhibitions at John's website.
A.A., Franconia College, 1977; B.A., Evergreen State College, 1979; M.F.A., Rhode Island School of Design, 1986; Marlboro College, 1991 –