In 1920, Roman Vishniac and his new bride Luta arrived in Berlin. Having fled the turmoil of post-revolutionary Moscow, the couple had hastily been married by a station master in a Latvian border town, before traveling to Riga and on to the German capital. There, Vishniac was reunited with his wealthy parents, who had left Russia three years earlier, and he and Luta were married again in a register office before their union was blessed by a traditional Jewish ceremony. So began their new life in a city that an excited Vishniac described as “a living whole … the centre of western Europe”.
The story of their flight is emblematic of Vishniac’s extraordinary life, which was lived out, in part, against Europe’s turbulent early-to-mid 20th-century history. As a child he had experimented with scientific photography, attaching a microscope to a camera in order to produce magnified images of insects and plants. Having gone on to train as a biologist, he found work hard to come by in Berlin. Intrigued by the cosmopolitan nature of the city, he became a keen amateur photographer, strolling the city night and day with a Rolleiflex camera dangling from his neck.
In the early 1930s, his eye was drawn to the play of light and shadow on passing people, on workers tarmacking a street, on wide empty vistas and narrow doorways. As he grew in confidence and aptitude, his style became more formal. A shot of Leipzig station, sunlight falling from the glass roof on waiting commuters, recalls the cool American modernism of Paul Strand or Edward Steichen.
For more, read the full article at The Guardian .