His work spans the period from the so-called “Neue Fotografie” (New Photography) of the late 1920s in Germany to the color photography of the 1940s in the US. Having fallen into a long period of oblivion due to his biography of exile, he is currently being rediscovered. This exhibition presents the first exhaustive retrospective of the work in his estate and includes 130 black-and-white vintage prints, 20 color enlargements from original color slides, and numerous original examples of his works from the illustrated press. This unusually rich trove of materials is being shown in a compact format resembling a filmstrip, which revisits both the presentation of photographs in printed media and in exhibitions typical of the time of Weimar republic.
The life of the photographer was equally multifaceted. He was first active as an architect and proponent of “Neues Bauen,” the modern architecture style of the late 1920s. In Hamburg he and his partner ran the architecture firm Dr. Block & Hochfeld. The need to document the construction of his own buildings led him to take up photography in 1929. Using a small-format Leica camera, Block captured the technical structures in the harbor of Hamburg in a style indebted to New Objectivity. He also possessed a sensibility for the expressive depiction of people, photographing individuals ranging from a shipyard worker to a circus clown. His interest in nature is revealed in his photographs of animals and studies of plants, his still lifes and X-ray images of shells. Block also experimented with the unconventional forms of New Vision and arranged his images into photo reportages.