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, Princeton University, and Harvard University. He also co-founded The In-Sight Photography Project, a Brattleboro-based project that uses photography as a medium for reaching out to local young people and it’s Exposures Cross Cultural Youth Arts Program.
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.
John’s own work has been widely exhibited, and is in the permanent collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Tokyo Museum of Photography, Biblioteche Nationale of Paris and many more. He describes his photography as “a mix of documentary and fine art 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 received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010. His most recent book, Mni Wiconi, Honoring the Water Protectors was published in 2019 by GFT Press. He has participated in several Freeman Foundation-supported academic trips to Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Japan. John is Founding 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 a Founding Director of the Exposures Cross Cultural Youth Program, bringing participants from diverse backgrounds together for three-week summer intensives using photography and writing to tell stories about family, culture, tradition and sense of place in an effort to expand artistic and cultural horizons.