Picturing Vishniac: A Closer Reading, New Work and Constructions of Jewish Identity

Tuesday, October 18
Picturing Vishniac: A Closer Reading, New Work and Constructions of Jewish Identity
Maya Benton, International Center of Photography
Cochrane-Woods Art Center, Rm. 157
5540 S. Greenwood Ave.
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Roman Vishniac’s photographs constitute the most widely recognized and reproduced images of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. His photographs shape our memory of that vanished world, yet only a small selection of his images – a very small fraction of his life’s work – has ever been printed or published. The recent donation of Vishniac’s entire estate to the International Center of Photograph (ICP) in New York includes tens of thousands of negatives, contact sheets, prints and a lifetime of personal correspondence and ephemera. Curator Maya Benton will be discussing the process of establishing the Vishniac archive at ICP, and will present recently discovered work, including never-before-seen moving film footage, images of Zionist agrarian training camps in Holland before World War II and Displaced Persons camps in Berlin following the War, photographs made in America in the 1940s documenting the work of Jewish social service organizations, as well as a large selection of contact sheets, negatives, and never-before-seen work from Central and Eastern Europe. She will also discuss the influence of European modernism and avant-garde movements on his most accomplished work. She will share new research focusing on the commission of Vishniac’s photographs by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), repositioning Vishniac within the broader context of commissioned social documentary photography in the 1930s, and revealing a profoundly versatile artist who belongs firmly in the canon of the great photographers of the 20th century.

Maya Benton is director of the Roman Vishniac archive and adjunct curator at the International Center of Photography (ICP). Her research focuses on documentary photographs of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, Israeli contemporary photography and video art, and Jewish visual culture and vernacular photography. Maya has 15 years of museum experience and has worked at institutions including ICP, the RISD Museum, the Getty, the Harvard Art Museums and the Jewish museum in Florence, Italy.

This event is made possible by the Aronberg Fund and the Meyer Fund of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies and the Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

Posted in: Chicago Events, University of Chicago Events

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