Roman Vishniac Photographs Exhibit at the International Center of Photography

The photographs of Roman Vishniac are on display at the ICP at 6th Avenue and 43rd Street.

We don't expect that Vishniac's portrait of our dad is in the exhibit.

Portraits of Albert Einstein and Marc Chagall made it into the exhibit.


The portrait selections in the exhibit are just one part of a larger collection. The catalog describes the portraits this way:

Portrait Studio and Nightclubs, New York

Upon arriving in New York in 1941, Vishniac turned to photography to support his family, opening a portrait studio on the Upper West Side. Always resourceful, he mined his connections in the Russian and German-Jewish expatriate communities to secure famous subjects for portraits—Marc Chagall, Albert Einstein, and Yiddish Theater star Molly Picon among them. These photographs of well-known artists, intellectuals, and performers helped establish Vishniac's reputation in New York, attracting a broad clientele to his studio, including Jewish émigré dancers, actors, musicians, artists, intellectuals, and scientists. His success in portraiture ultimately allowed Vishniac to pursue photomicroscopy, biology, and scientific research—fields that would become his primary focus over the next fifty years.

Vishniac also turned his camera to the city's nightclubs, where war- weary New Yorkers, abetted by a swell of immigrant performers and off-duty servicemen, sought distraction at a frenzied pace. His dynamic and skilled work, focusing on jazz musicians, actors, comedians, and dancers, exhibited here for the first time, incorporated highbrow and lowbrow, popular and avant-garde, focusing primarily on three Jewish- owned nightclubs: New York's first integrated nightclub, Café Society, The Village Vanguard in bohemian Greenwich Village, and the burlesque joint Leon & Eddie's. Much like his earlier work in Eastern Europe, Vishniac's portraits of Jewish émigré intellectuals and performers capture the vitality and resilience of Jewish life, this time from the perspective of a different segment of the diaspora, facing its own set of challenges.

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