The Contemporary Jewish Museum presents Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, an exhibition that reveals the full range of Vishniac’s radically diverse body of work — much of it only recently discovered.
February 11–May 29, 2016
The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco
More than any other photographer, Roman Vishniac profoundly influenced contemporary impressions of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of that world on the eve of its annihilation, yet very little of his work was published or printed during his lifetime (1897–1990). Known primarily for this poignant record, Vishniac was in fact a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. His body of work spans more than five decades, ranging from his early engagements with European modernism in the 1920s, to his portrait photographs in New York City from the 1940s, and his highly inventive color photomicroscopy in the 1950s–70s.
Drawn from the extensive Roman Vishniac Archive at the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York City, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered presents newly discovered vintage prints, film footage, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from recently digitized negatives for a comprehensive reappraisal of the photographer’s output. Nearly 400 objects, including photographs, negatives, books, journals, and ephemera—many of them never seen before this exhibition premiered at the ICP in 2013—reveal a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range that solidifies Vishniac’s place among the twentieth century’s most accomplished photographers, and repositions his iconic photographs of eastern European Jewry within a broader tradition of social documentary photography.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 384 page retrospective monograph, the first comprehensive text ever written about Roman Vishniac’s career that spans five decades. Published by the International Center of Photography and DelMonico Books, an imprint of Prestel, and edited by Maya Benton, the publication features 475 images and essays by twenty-three contributors. It was recently listed by both the Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast as one of the Best Photography Books of 2015.