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International Center of Photography

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At this late date, in an age when seemingly every significant photograph of the past 150 years has been anthologized and analyzed, how many major 20th-century photographers can possibly remain under the radar of both the general public and photography aficionados? How many discoveries of unknown, genuinely great photographers can we possibly expect?

A show of pictures made by Russian-born Roman Vishniac, opening Jan. 18 at New York’s International Center of Photography, answers both questions with an emphatic, at least one.

It should be noted at the very outset that Vishniac did not toil in utter obscurity. In fact, he has long been celebrated in the Jewish community for his empathetic and intimate documentation of shtetl life Central and Eastern Europe in the years prior to the rise of the Third Reich and the cataclysmic onset of the Second World War. One Vishniac book in particular, A Vanished World, has for decades held pride of place in countless Jewish homes — a secret history, of sorts, that at-once documents and partially mythologizes a cultural landscape that was all but wiped away by the Holocaust.

The ICP exhibition, meanwhile, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, will feature largely unpublished photos, with the stated aim not only of introducing Vishniac to an audience that knows little or nothing of his work, but of positioning him as one of the great social documentarians of the mid-20th century, whose pictures stand comparison with Cartier-Bresson or Eugene Atget.

According to ICP’s Maya Benton, who curated Rediscovered, Vishniac’s known body of work is really a narrow (albeit excellent) entry point to a much broader appreciation of his vast and varied archive. A mere one to two percent of his photos have ever been published, Benton points out, suggesting that the exhibition’s broad scope — including his work in photo microscopy, personal correspondence and other treasures — will be a revelation not only to the uninitiated, but to those who might have felt that they already knew all there was to know about the long-unheralded master.

Liz Ronk is the photo editor for LIFE.com.

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Weegee, the tenacious news photographer famous for his gritty images of New York in the 1930s and ’40s, is the subject of two concurrent shows in Manhattan, one at Steven Kasher Gallery and one at the International Center for Photography. The exhibit at the ICP includes historical material, such as Weegee’s book “Naked City”, newspapers, films and images made by other photographers.

Weegee worked as a freelance newspaper photographer when wire services were just beginning include photos, a time when New York City had several dailies. Strategically, Weegee was well situated for the challenge of keeping up with the crime surge–as police and government crackdowns increased in the city between 1935 and 1941, the rate of organized-crime murders increased dramatically. His apartment was across the street from police headquarters, where he listened to his police-band radio receiver for updates, often managing to arrive on the scene before the police. Murders, he claimed, were the easiest to photograph because the subjects never moved or got temperamental. To read more about Weegee’s illustrious career, click here.

At an East Side Murder, 1943. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Weegee, The dead man’s wife arrived…and then she collapsed, ca. 1940. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Hats in a pool room, Mulberry Street, New York, ca. 1943. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

This photo by an unidentified photographer shows Weegee on the scene, December 9, 1939. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Anthony Esposito, booked on suspicion of killing a policeman, New York, January 16, 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Police officer and lodge member looking at blanket-covered body of woman trampled to death in excursion-ship stampede, New York, August 18, 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography

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