Through photography I have learned about love. These are lessons I hadn’t learned at home or in school, but when I began making portraits, I asked people about their lives and their values. I needed the people I photographed to form and shape me. Through these people I began to know what love could feel like.
I have been grateful that others pushed the medium of photography into new realms but that has not been my pursuit. I began with my mother because I had no other way to approach understanding her. It was ten years after her death but it was a happy day when I began to miss her. Making other portraits fueled my hunger to know the people who could open me to falling in love – with the Yiddish community of South Miami Beach, with the camp girls, their beauty and promise all over their faces, with rescuers who risked their lives to save Jews, and with all the people who generously allowed me to ask them personal questions, hard questions, that led to my feeling each was my best friend. Especially the rescuers; they filled me with love and hope.
I could not have learned about love without photography, and I am still learning.
Gay Block began photographing in 1973, making portraits of her affluent Jewish community in Houston. Her landmark work with writer Malka Drucker, RESCUERS: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, Holmes & Meier, 1992, is now in its 5th printing. The portraits were exhibited internationally at over fifty venues, including Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Cocoran Gallery of Art.
Block's visual autobiography of her mother, BERTHA ALYCE: Mother exPosed, UNM Press, 2003, contains an award-winning 24-minute video seen in over 25 film festivals.
Block's next work was a 2006 re-photographic project of the women whom she photographed as camp girls in 1981. ABOUT LOVE: photographs and Films 1973-2011, a monograph of over two hundred images and including five films on two DVDs, was published by Radius Books in 2011.
Block's photographs are included in collections at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, MoMA, NY, and San Francisco MoMA, among many others.
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