Roman Vishniac's Modern Eye
This photo of Jewish schoolchildren in the town of Mukacevo, now part of Ukraine, was taken by Roman Vishniac sometime between 1935 and 1938, when he was documenting the sorry state of the Jewish population in Eastern Europe – which was about to get so much worse. The image is now in his show at the International Center of Photography in New York. The exhibition makes clear how much Vishniac’s “simple” documentation owes to avant-garde art and photography from earlier in the century. That’s doubly clear when you look at the much straighter photojournalism by Chim that’s on view one floor up at the ICP, and that was done at precisely the same time. I have to admit that the stylishness of Vishniac’s vision helps sell me on his subjects – even though his Orthodox subjects often resisted the modernity he represents.
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