new-york

Roman Vishniac

International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

On the one hand, Roman Vishniac shows us images of “man,” in accordance with the exhibition’s title “Man, Nature, and Science, 1930–1985”—man in the form of pathetic, impoverished Jews in their East European shtetls, just before the Holocaust. A map shows us the locations of the places in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland where Vishniac documented “the vanishing lifestyles and traditions of his people.” The last of the images is of a terrified face on the evening of November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht. All these photographs are in black and white, and somewhere between hard and soft focus, giving the impression that we are looking at memory in the making. It is as if Vishniac were already in mourning, anticipating the inevitable.

These contrast vividly with his exquisite, large, color photographs of various microorganisms, insects, and living materials—the micrographic photographs that show

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