The Jewish Ghetto and Photonostalgia: Roman Vishniac’s Vanished World

A R T L▼R K

51VZEZTZMQLOn the 19th of August 1897, one of the world’s most remarkable microbiologists and naturalist photographers, Roman Vishniac was born in Pavlovsk, the Russian Empire. Within the art world, however, he is best remembered for his photojournalistic coverage of the Eastern European Jewish ghettos prior to World War II. In the late 1930s, Vishniac was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to photograph the Jewish poor of Eastern Europe. Out of the sixteen thousand photographs he managed to take, only two thousand survived. Most of them have been published several times in book form as Polish Jews (1947), A Vanished World (1969), and To Give Them Light(1992).   

Vishniac’s body of work has come to be thought of as the last photographic record of a universe on the cusp of being comprehensively and cataclysmically destroyed. His pictures were used in so many influential books about…

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