“Roman Vishniac Rediscovered”


Past Event

Location Info:

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet
Houston, TX  77005
It is ironic that one of the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers had for years been known for just a small body of work. That all changed when the International Center of Photography chronicled and archived more than 10,000 negatives from Roman Vishniac’s home; almost 250 objects are on display at the “Roman Vishniac Rediscovered” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“First and foremost, he’s an artist who is known for four years of work,” says Maya Benton, exhibition curator, who has been working on archiving and digitizing those negatives for ICP, a process that resulted in 50,000 objects. “For the first time, we’re introducing six decades of work.”

Russian-born Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920, and later began to photograph symbols related to the Nazi rise to power. As part of a fundraising campaign, he was hired in 1935 to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Europe. His now-famous documentations of daily life captured hunger and homelessness, but they also recorded happy family scenes, such as a mother pushing a baby carriage down the street, until one notices the swastika flag in the background.

One very famous image, taken from inside the polar bear exhibit at a zoo, creates the illusion that people visiting the zoo are behind bars. “He was a zoologist; the zoo was a second home. One of his best friends was the head of the zoo,” said Benton. A few weeks later, all Jews — including Vishniac — were banned from the zoo. After moving to New York in 1941, the photographer continued to capture American Jewish life throughout the ’40s and ’50s; his other passion was photomicroscopy, a field to which he devoted the last 45 years of his life. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through January 3. 1001 Bissonnet. For information call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org.

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