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Insects, Microscopes and More:

The Biological Photography of Roman Vishniac

Howard J. Radzyner, BS, RBP, FBCA
Principal of Radzyner, Inc.
New York
Norman Barker, MA, MS, RBP, FBCA, FRPS
John Hopkins University, School of Medicine


Where:                Linder Theater, AMNH, enter West 77th Street entrance

Date:                   Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Time:                   7 PM to 8:30 PM


Roman Vishniac — who served as President of the NYES in 1955 and 1956 — had a 50+ year career in biological photography. While Vishniac is renown world-wide for his documentary photography and cinematography of the Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Europe; what is relatively unknown today to the photography community — despite the significant recognition it received at the time of its creation — is that Roman Vishniac’s major efforts were not documentary nor artistic, but focused on presenting hitherto unseen aspects of the biological world. 


Inquiry made possible by the establishment of the Roman Vishniac Archive at the International Center of Photography in NYC, has revealed much more of Vishniac’s post-WW2, photographic and artistic activities.  In this presentation developed by Howard J. Radzyner and Norman Barker, the phenomenal scope and quantity of scientific work produced by Roman Vishniac is examined. 


Beginning even before Vishniac’s 1941 arrival in the US and continuing until shortly before his death in 1990, he created an enormous, varied and largely unexamined collection of exciting and illuminating photographic and cinematographic images of life.  As early as 1943 Vishniac (in collaboration with Fritz Goro) contributed to a major article in Life Magazine about crop damaged caused by insects


From zoo animals to the tiniest of microorganisms, from time-lapse studies of vascular physiology to widely distributed biology classroom films, from spreads in Life magazine to advertisements for an insect sting analgesic; Vishniac’s ability to create images — almost exclusively of living subjects — was sought after by scientific researchers, popular magazines, movie producers, news organizations and commercial entities.  Vishniac’s magnum opus, funded by the National Science Foundation with an amount equivalent to over $2,000,000 in 2017 dollars, was a series of films known as the Living Biology Film Series produced in the early-1960s for use in high school and college-level biology classes.


Vishniac’s body of scientific work, produced in an age before the technological advances in imaging that we all now enjoy, and despite its later eclipse by his own earlier images, was regarded as the finest and most imaginative of its time.  Redressing the imbalance in the prominence of Vishniac’s work in scientific photography and addressing why this aspect of his work has largely been forgotten is the driving force of this inquiry.


About the presenters:


Howard J. Radzyner, BS, RBP, FBCA is Principal of Radzyner, et. al. in New York where he provides a variety of photographic, communications, production and consultancy services to clients in the worlds of medicine, science, law and art.  Howard’s photographs have been published papers in journals such as Science, Cell and the New England Journal of Medicine, have illustrated numerous papers, books, and presentations, have supported submissions for drug and device approval before federal agencies, and have provided evidence in civil and criminal proceedings.


Norman Barker, MA, MS, RBP, FBCA, FRPS is Director of the Pathology Photography and Graphics Laboratory as well as Professor of Pathology and Professor of Art as Applied to Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Norman specializes in photomacrography, photomicrography and natural science photography.  The author and photographer of four books; Norman’s work is held in the collections of over 40 museums including the Smithsonian Institution, George Eastman House and the American Museum of Natural History.


Dinner:      Senn Thai Comfort Food, 452 Amsterdam Avenue, 9:00 p.m.


Society meetings are always open to the public with no admission charge.

Past Monthly Meetings

September 2017

May 2017

April 2017

February 2017

January 2017

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

October 2015

Archive Monthly Meeting November 2017

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