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BCA News: Summer 2018

All photographs by Roman Vishniac are © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography.Paper on Roman Vishniac Presented at RIT's PhotoHistory/PhotoFuture Conference

All photographs by Roman Vishniac are © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography.

On 20 April 2018, Norman J. Barker and Howard J. Radzyner presented a paper titled Roman Vishniac: Documentarian, Scientist, Artist. Their talk was one of 65 presentations given at Rochester Institute of Technology’s PhotoHistory/PhotoFuture conference. RIT has taken on the effort of continuing this biennial 2-day conference that for many years was sponsored by the Photographic Historical Society and the George Eastman House Museum. The conference attracted over 400 attendees who came to Rochester, NY from 10 countries and from a wide mix of specialties (photographers, art historians, photographic scientists, conservators, critics, etc.). An additional 125 visited for the co-located vintage photograph/photographica sales event. In addition to the meeting’s academic program, Friday evening events included gallery shows at RIT and tours of RIT’s Image Permanence Institute and displays of the vintage presses at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. The conference concluded with a cocktail reception on Saturday evening at Eastman House.

Howard Radzyner (L) listening to a description of a stereo-imaging study of book binding stability by Jae Gutierrez (R) the Director of the Image Permanence Institute.  Note the two digital cameras mounted with fixed lateral and angular displacement at the bottom-right of the photograph.
Howard Radzyner (L) listening to a description of a stereo-imaging study of book binding stability by Jae Gutierrez (R) the Director of the Image Permanence Institute. Note the two digital cameras mounted with fixed lateral and angular displacement at the bottom-right of the photograph.

Howard and Norman have been working for two years on a comprehensive study of Roman Vishniac’s biological photography and cinematography. While the 20-minute podium presentation could only provide a brief glimpse of the decades of Vishniac’s work that they uncovered, both authors were delighted that their first peer-reviewed effort was very well-received. Both Howard and Norman have presented to the BCA on Vishniac’s work in the past. Aspects of their research have already been presented in NYC at the National Arts Club and the American Museum of Natural History and at Pathology Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

A major article, Illuminating Roman Vishniac: A Career in Biological Photography and Cinematography, detailing the results of their research – which includes much previously unknown or forgotten material unearthed from the Roman Vishniac Archive at The International Center of Photography as well from archives at over a dozen other locations – will soon be published in the next issue of the Journal of Biocommunication. In addition to developing a time-line of Vishniac’s work, a central question of the article asks, “Why has Vishniac’s decades long, renowned career in biological and scientific photography faded from the photography world’s consciousness?” The article is notable for its inclusion of live web links to original motion picture footage, magazine articles and documents as well as embedded video clips. Howard and Norman’s research was funded in part by the BCA’s Endowment Fund for Education and the Royal Photographic Society’s Peter Hansell Memorial Fund.

Howard and Norman are also consulting with Katahdin Productions on a Vishniac documentary with the working title: All This Life: The Many Worlds of Roman Vishniac, that is expected to be released in Fall 2019.


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