“John is the best and he deserves all of the accolades he can get,” wrote one respondent when replying to the open call for the recent one-day exhibition, Celebrating John Willis, shown during the joint retirement celebration for John Willis and Meg Mott over Home Days weekend. That sentiment is shared by many who have had the chance to work with John, whether as a student or someone who is part of the wider photo community. In addition to his work as professor of photography and visual arts at Marlboro College since 1991, John has had an enduring presence in southern Vermont’s arts scene as a champion for the arts and arts education with a particular focus on the photographic arts as a force for beneficial change.
John has long championed volunteerism and collaborative service learning, something that drew the admiration and emulation of his students over the years. He has traveled extensively within the United States and internationally, facilitating cultural exchange/service trips and assisting marginalized and at-risk people through the photographic medium. Some milestone events from John’s career that highlight his service-oriented approach to photography include: cofounding the Brattleboro-based In-Sight Photography Project, his ongoing work with the Oglala Lakota Tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; his role as an advisory board member and printer for the international traveling exhibition, In the Eye of the Beholder: The Secret Archive, El Salvador 1980-1991, and co-leading multiple international academic trips to the countries of Cambodia, China, and Cuba.
The exhibition Celebrating John Willis is comprised of 115 images contributed by 26 alumni of the college. The work in the exhibit ranges from student images created while studying with John to more contemporary explorations. While the photography is diverse in subject and approach, it speaks to the profound and ongoing influence John has had on all of us who have studied and worked with him. Those who were unable to attend Home Days weekend can access a video of the slideshow at https://vimeo.com/364917160.
Participating alumni include:
Alice Packard ’11, Benjamin Montague ’93, Brad Carmody ’95, Caroline Bell ’97, Diane Arndt ’94, Elli Ludwigson ’09, Eric Joyce ’12, Erik Olson ’94, Jessamyn Martin ’04, Jo Moyer-Battick ’12, Jon Notwick ’12, Jon Tobiasz ’00, Jonathan Gitelson ’97, Jonathan Taylor ’86, Kirsten Neves ’94, Lakshmi Luthra ’05, Lillian Graham ’07, Loren Talbot ’95, Lucy DeLaurentis ’10, Nick Rouke ’12, Patrick Hahn ’00, Rachel Portesi ’98, Sara W. Andrews ’98, Seth Winsor ’01, Shana (Hall) Duncan ’02, Vaune Trachtman ’89.
In addition to the one-day exhibition, several alumni contributed images to the 21st Annual Photography Exhibit & Benefit Auction in support of the In-Sight Photography Project. The exhibit is on display now through October 27 at the Vermont Center for Photography, 49 Flat Street in downtown Brattleboro. Bidding on the auction begins on Oct. 20 and closes on Oct. 27 when the exhibit closes. You can view and participate in the auction online at https://www.32auctions.com/insight2019. All proceeds from the auction support the In-Sight Photography Project’s scholarship fund which makes it possible for In-Sight to provide its programs to all young people, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.