Roman Vishniac

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Roman Vishniac (August 19, 1897 – January 22, 1990) was a renowned Russian-American photographer of poor Jews in Eastern European ghettos in the 1930s.

Sourced[edit]

  • These are the faces of children I embraced and kissed and loved. I cannot imagine that they are dead, that none would survive... A million and a half children among the six million... But this I knew... I wanted to save their faces, not their ashes.
  • I read the first edition of 'Mein Kampf' when it came out in 1923 and even then I knew Hitler meant what he said. I knew the history of anti-Semitism going back for centuries, and I knew all about pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. When I grew up and whent to school in Moscow, I experienced anti-Semitism and the restrictions on where Jews could live and work. Hitler systemized anti-Semitism. Pogroms are my business... Oh yes, I could be a professor of anti-Semitism.
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • Even before the concentration camps, I felt it was my duty to my ancestors to preserve a world which might cease to exist.
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • Concentration camp money... It was a German sadism that invented it. Can you do anything with it? Yes, you can cry.
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • The Jews of the shtetls that Tolstoy remembered were saints... the people I photographed were saints. So now, in 1983, I tell the world: When you learn about Goethe, don't forget to study the Holocaust, too.
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • ...can you call a farm with a dozen geese a farm? Still, it was a little better for the Jews in Czechoslovakia. There were only two pogroms there. What's two pogroms?
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • Nature, God, or whatever you want to call the creator of the universe comes through the microscope clearly and strongly
    • ICP Library of Photographers. Roman Vishniac. Grossman Publishers, New York. 1974. pg 42.
  • The purpose of photography is the transmission of a visualized sector of life through the medium of the camera into a mental process that starts with the photographer's thinking about the subject he photographs and is continued in the mind of the spectator.
    • Deschin, Jacob. "Nature as it is". New York Times (1857-Current file); Feb 3, 1952; Proquest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2002) pg. X14
  • You can't teach biology with a bottle containing dead animals and organisms.
    • Shepard, Richard F. "Roman Vishniac, 92, a Biologist And Photographer of Jews, Dies". New York Times (1859-Current file); Jan 23, 1990; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1951 - 2002) pg. D23.

New York Times Magazine

Newhouse, Alana (2010-03-29). "A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac". The New York Times Magazine. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved on 2010-04-13. 
  • [The Jews who roamed through Moscow looking for work] had a special kind of face ... a special kind of whisper and a special kind of footstep ... They were like hunted animals.
  • My friends assured me that Hitler’s talk was sheer bombast,” Vishniac said in 1955. “But I replied that he would not hesitate to exterminate those people when he got around to it. And who was there to defend them? I knew I could be of little help, but I decided that, as a Jew, it was my duty to my ancestors, who grew up among the very people who were being threatened, to preserve — in pictures, at least — a world that might soon cease to exist.

About Vishniac[edit]

  • Vishniac came back from his trips... with a collection of photographs that has become an important historical document, for it gives us a last minute look at the human beings he photographed just before the fury of the Nazi brutality exterminated them. Vishniac took with him on this self-imposed assignment... a rare depth of understanding and a native son's warmth and love for his people. ~ Edward Steichen, ex-director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, in the 1950s.
    • Testament to a Lost People
  • [his scientific accomplishments] were overshadowed by the photographs he took of Jews in prewar Eastern Europe and in Nazi Berlin. -- Shepard, Richard
    • "Roman Vishniac, 92, a Biologist And Photographer of Jews, Dies"
  • Those images have proved to be an extraordinary record, made with forebodings of misfortune, that bring alive the flavor of the shtetl, of a Jewish peasant tending geese in the Carpathian Mountains, of tumbledown shacks in the Jewish quarter of Lublin, Poland, of Jewish patriarchs, in long caftans and wearing the furry hat called a shtreimel, trudging through the snow. -- Shepard, Richard
    • "Roman Vishniac, 92, a Biologist And Photographer of Jews, Dies"
  • I met him in 1966, and discovered how undiscovered he was. -- Cornell Capa
    • "Roman Vishniac, 92, a Biologist And Photographer of Jews, Dies"
  • [His photography was a] guiding force for visual interpretation [of Schindler's List].
    • Loshitzky, Yosefa (1997). Spielberg's Holocaust. Indiana University Press. p. 166. ISBN 0253210984, 9780253210982. 

New York Times Magazine

Newhouse, Alana (2010-03-29). "A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac". The New York Times Magazine. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved on 2010-04-13. 
  • “No one who hasn’t tried it can comprehend the careful planning, the diabolical perseverance and the incredible skill it takes to obtain the [photomicroscopic] results he gets,” the magazine quoted Philippe Halsman, former president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, as saying of Vishniac. “The man is a special kind of genius.”
  • In addition to his charisma and obvious talents, he was also known to possess what Howard Greenberg, Vishniac’s longtime gallerist, identified as “one of the bigger egos on the planet.”
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