From the Photographer’s Archive: Roman Vishniac

Exhibit - Photography | January 24 – June 20, 2017 every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday | 11 a.m.-4 p.m. |  Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life (2121 Allston Way)

 Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

The work of Roman Vishniac (1897-1990), a Russian-born photographer, most notable for his documentary photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the years immediately preceding its destruction, has been celebrated in exhibitions and publications since the 1940s. Following the photographer's death, his daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, became the executor of Roman Vishniac’s estate. In 2007, the Roman Vishniac Archive was established at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Its collections comprise over 30,000 objects spanning more than six decades, and include more than 9,000 unprinted negatives (now digitized), recently discovered vintage photographic prints, film footage, and personal correspondence.

The timing and location of Vishniac’s images capture the essence of what his photographic archive seeks to preserve and enshrine — as the title of one of the photographer's most celebrated publications recites — "vanished worlds." With the establishment of the Roman Vishniac Archives at the ICP and through the research of curator Maya Benton, Vishniac's complex artistic personality — encompassing a distinctive modernist outlook on Berlin and New York City street life from the 1920s through the 1940s — has come to the forefront. In 2016, the Archives donated twenty original photographs to The Magnes, including prints made by the artist during his lifetime, and a poignant series of contemporary prints from original negatives.

Beginning with his venture into studio portraiture in New York in the 1940s, taking photographs of renowned Jewish artists and public figures, transitioning to his commissioned series of pre-war Eastern European Jewry, onto post-war Jewish life in Displaced Persons camp, and finally his experimentation with modernist street photography in pre-and-post-war Berlin, this exhibition celebrates the expansive range of both subjects and visual motifs that are exemplary of Vishniac’s photography.

 magnes@berkeley.edu, 510-643-2526