The foundational strength of the Block Museum’s photography collection is in social documentary work, particularly the more than 200 photographs by W. Eugene Smith acquired from the remarkable donation by noted collectors Richard and Ellen Sandor. This collection includes Smith’s photographic essays Recording Artists, Musicians, Life Without Germs and many reviews of Broadway productions and actors -- all produced for Life magazine.

The Block also has excellent examples of vintage contact prints produced under the Farm Securities Administration in the 1940s. Works by artists such as Esther Bubley, John Collier, Arthur Rothstein and John Vachon complement the Block’s social realist and Works Progress Administration print collection. 

The Block’s collection of contemporary photographs includes major works by renowned artists David Levinthal, Robert Mapplethorpe, Luis González Palma, Shirin Neshat, Andres Serrano, Andy Warhol and numerous Chicago-based artists including Alan Cohen, Barbara Crane, Nathan Lerner, Laura Letinsky, Joseph Sterling, Brad Temkin and Edmund Teske.