In 1935, Roman Vishniac, a Russian Jewish expatriate living in Berlin and working as a biologist and photomicroscoper, was commissioned by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to photograph and raise awareness of impoverished Jewish communities in central and eastern Europe. The resulting images are some of the most iconic pictures in Jewish culture: the final visual record of communities destroyed by the Holocaust. Vishniac's entire archive was recently donated to ICP, including negatives, contact sheets, audio tapes, notes, and family documents, making possible a critical re-examination of the life and work of this renowned photographer. In addition to Vishniac's most recognized images, the collection includes rarely seen photographs of Jewish agrarian training camps and health organizations; children's refugee camps and technical schools; post-war Displaced Persons Camps; and many of Vishniac's portraits and commissioned works, which largely focus on refugees and were produced after he immigrated to the U.S. in 1941. Among its most remarkable contents is recently discovered film footage shot by Vishniac in remote Jewish communities in the Carpathian Mountains in central and eastern Europe--the only known filmed material of this subject--as well as footage from more urban locations. The archive also includes Vishniac's negatives and contact sheets, which have never been studied, printed or exhibited, and offer tremendous insight into Vishniac's technique.
International Center of Photography
600 linear feet, 20000 objects
1923 - 1990
Roughly 25 percent of image locations have been identified in eastern and central Europe, and geographic research is ongoing.