Presented simultaneously at The Photographers’ Gallery and Jewish Museum London, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is the first UK retrospective of Russian born American photographer, Roman Vishniac (1897–1990).
Roman Vishniac’s development as a professional photographer in Berlin corresponded with the Nazi’s rise to power, and this far-reaching exhibition of his iconic imagery – documenting everything from 1930s training camps for Zionist youth in the Netherlands to the arrival of Holocaust survivors in America – provides a uniquely and timely insight into the much-maligned Jewish community.
The ephemera surrounding the exhibition – vintage prints, film footage, contact sheets and audio recordings – place Vishniac’s photography in its chilling context: his haunting images of Jewish children are positioned alongside examples of Nazi propaganda, children’s books portraying Jews as sexually depraved, grotesque and greedy.
Vishniac’s later scientific work in photomicroscopy provides a fascinating counterpoint to the static images, as well as a welcome injection of colour – these vivid images projected onto a wall are mesmeric: close ups of larvae, butterfly wing scales, jellyfish and melting snow provided a thought-provoking shift in pace and subject matter.
The exhibition is well-paced and easily navigable, the images are beautifully treated, and each is enhanced by a comprehensive caption, especially helpful considering Vishniac’s long career, the direct impact of the war on his work and how widely he travelled.
Entry to the exhibition also includes an interactive photographic ‘studio’ where you can attempt to replicate Vishniac’s techniques for yourself. In addition, the whole Jewish Museum itself is fantastic, with plenty more hands-on exhibitions and activities for children – go and dedicate a full afternoon to this hidden gem in north London.
Book a £5 exhibition day pass on The Photographers’ Gallery website.