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Haberdashery in the open market, Warsaw

Date ca. 1935-38
Location Warsaw Poland
Dimensions Image: 7 1/4 x 9 3/8 in. (18.4 x 23.8 cm)
Paper: 8 1/8 x 10 in. (20.6 x 25.4 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

The subject of this unpublished print, a woman operating a haberdashery in the outdoor market of Warsaw, contrasts with many of Vishniac’s well-known images of observant Jewish male shopkeepers, often reproduced with captions describing their empty shelves, lack of customers, and the unbearable effects of the antisemitic boycotts. Here, a self-assured woman fixes her slightly stern gaze directly on the photographer, while an observant man in an adjacent stall tries to make a sale. The stalls and shelves overflow with merchandise, towers of ribbon and a platter of spools perch on the edge of the counter, and a thick band of empty countertop diagonally bisects the picture, creating a thoroughly modern composition.
Some of Vishniac’s best photographs of women were never published, possibly because Jewish women were not as easily identifiable by their dress as were religious Jewish men. This remarkable portrait, reminiscent of Brassaï’s best work, raises questions about the gendered nature of our understanding of prewar Eastern European Jewish life.


© Mara Vishniac Kohn

Credit line

Gift of Mara Vishniac Kohn, 2013

Feedback Accession No. MVK.HGW.626.2008