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Roman Vishniac Rediscovered





JANUARY 18–MAY 5, 2013
Roman Vishniac Rediscovered brings together four decades of work by an extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer for the first time. Vishniac (1897–1990) created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in eastern Europe between the two World Wars.

These celebrated photographs were taken on assignment for the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world's largest Jewish relief organization, from 1935–38, yet this exhibition follows the photographer's long and accomplished career from the early 1920s through the 1950s.

This exhibition introduces recently discovered and radically diverse new bodies of work by Vishniac, and repositions his iconic photographs of eastern Europe within the broader tradition of 1930s commissioned social documentary photography. The exhibition


This project is made possible with support from Mara Vishniac Kohn, whose generosity founded the Roman Vishniac Archive at ICP, and from the Andrew and Marina Lewin Family Foundation, Estanne and Martin Fawer, the David Berg Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Olitsky Family Foundation, the ICP Exhibitions Committee, James and Merryl Tisch, Koret Foundation, Caryl and Israel Englander, Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, the Bernard Lee Schwartz Foundation, Inc., Tamar and Eric Goldstein, Laura and Murray Huberfeld, the John and Annamaria Phillips Foundation, additional anonymous donors, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. We also acknowledge the continued collaboration of our partners, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with whom we are developing a shared digital database of the Vishniac holdings at ICP


Roman Vishniac Rediscovered (International Center of Photography and DelMonico Books•Prestel), edited by Maya Benton, includes 475 images spanning six decades of the photographer's work, and essays by 23 world-renowned contributors.

Drawn from ICP's vast holdings of work by Roman Vishniac (1897-1990), this generously illustrated and expansive volume offers a new and profound consideration of this key modernist photographer. In addition to featuring Vishniac's best-known work - the iconic images of Jewish life in eastern Europe before the Holocaust - this publication also introduces many previously unpublished photographs spanning more than six decades of Vishniac's work. These include newly discovered images of prewar Berlin, rare film footage from rural Jewish communities in Carpathian Ruthenia, documentation of postwar ruins and Displaced Persons camps, and vivid coverage of Jewish and immigrant life in America in the 1940s and '50s. Essays by 23 world-renowned scholars from a wide range of fields including photography, Jewish history and culture address these newfound images and consider them in the context of modernist tendencies in Berlin in the 1920s and '30s; the rise of Nazi power in Germany and eastern Europe; the uses of social documentary photography for relief organizations; the experiences of exile, displacement, and assimilation; and the impact of Vishniac's pioneering scientific research in color photomicroscopy in the 1950s and '60s. This first retrospective monograph on Roman Vishniac offers many new perspectives on the work and career of this important photographer, positioning him as one of the great modernists and social documentary photographers of the last century.

Essays by Norman Barker, Maya Benton, Michael Berkowitz, Judith Cohen, Hasia Diner, Daniella Doron, Ute Eskildsen, Laura Hobson Faure, Atina Grossmann, J. Hoberman, Steven Hoelscher, Marion Kaplan, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Mara Vishniac Kohn, Yue Ma, Deborah Dash Moore, Avinoam Patt, Eddy Portnoy, Jeff Shandler, David Shneer, Herb Tam, Laura Wexler, and Bernadette van Woerkom.

To purchase the book: Roman Vishniac Rediscovered


Education materials produced by ICP for the Roman Vishniac Rediscovered exhibition can be found here:

  • Exhibition guide: Middle and High School
    Education materials produced by the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, in conjunction with their presentation of Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, can be found here:
  • Teacher Resource
    Education materials (in French) produced by the Musee d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme, in conjunction with their presentation of Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, can be found here:
  • Dossier Pedagogique