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Ishtar Gate, Dragon of Marduk MushhushImage Details
Ishtar Gate, Dragon of Marduk Mushhush (31.25)

Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky

Sunday, April 19, 2009 – Sunday, July 12, 2009

  • For Everyone

This exhibition, organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, includes around 90 black-and-white photographs taken by two photographers: Roman Vishniac, who photographed throughout Poland's Jewish communities in the mid-1930s, and Jeffrey Gusky who photographed many of the same Polish sites during the 1990s.

In 1935, Russian-born photographer Roman Vishniac was commissioned by the American Joint Distribution Committee (a Paris-based relief agency) to photograph Jewish communities in the cities and villages of Poland as well as other areas of Eastern Europe. He took over 16,000 photographs (around 2,000 have survived) depicting the people, life, homes, schools, and trades of these communities. The photographs, in turn, were to be used to help raise money for humanitarian aid for individuals in areas that were becoming increasingly destitute.

In 1996, Jeffrey Gusky, an amateur photographer and doctor of Russian-Jewish descent set out on a personal journey in search of Jewish identity and culture in Eastern Europe. He made the first of four trips to Poland where he traveled to cities and villages where Jews had lived and worked for centuries. Gusky photographed what remained of Jewish culture in Poland focusing on the ruins of synagogues, cemeteries—many of which were desecrated, and the empty and still streets.

This exhibition is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

In Detroit it is sponsored by *Bill and Karen Davidson. Additional support has been provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.

*In blessed memory.


Nat Gutman’s Wife, Warsaw, 1938

Gelatin silver print

10 15/16 x 13 7/8 inches

Collection of Mara Vishniac Kohn