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Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains

Date ca. 1935-38
Historical Location Carpathian Ruthenia
Dimensions Image (paper): 4 7/16 x 3 1/2 in. (11.3 x 8.9 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

Vishniac traveled to remote Jewish villages in rural Carpathian Ruthenia throughout the late 1930s, and in many cases was the only photographer to ever document these communities, which had been isolated for hundreds of years, yet maintained an enduring connection to Jewish observance, customs, and traditions.
Every detail of this image makes it a nearly perfect photograph: the sense of movement and the figures’ varied gestures and vibrant expressions; the carefully balanced horizontal bands of shadow and striped fabric; the detail of a woman peering out of a window while a glass pane on the facing structure points in the direction of an impossibly angled triangular building that vertically divides the frame in half; and the collective sense of surprise at encountering the photographer. Like much of Vishniac’s unpublished work, this composition recalls Henri Cartier-Bresson’s description of the decisive moment (a precise organization of forms that give a time and place its ideal expression) and places Vishniac on a par with the great photographers of the twentieth century.


© Mara Vishniac Kohn

Credit line

Gift of Mara Vishniac Kohn, 2013

Feedback Accession No. 1992.1958