A New York Photographer, a Japanese Explorer, and a Historic Trek to the North Pole
Ira Block was a 27-year-old photographer with one National Geographic assignment under his belt when he was asked to cover legendary Japanese explorer Naomi Uemura’s attempt to be the first person to journey alone to the North Pole.
It was 1978, and in those days things worked a bit differently in the magazine’s photography department than they do now. For one, there were no budgets for the stories. Regardless of cost, “You just went out and did them,” Block recalls. And then there was the legendary director of photography, Bob Gilka. “[He] liked to test new photographers—to take them out of their comfort zone, see what they could do,” Block remembers. Block grew up in Brooklyn and was a self-described