26 February 2010

Roman Vishniac: History Through a Camera

an interview by Ellen Wulfman (my mother)
featured in The Star News, 1984

It is late fall. Mrs. Vishniac has retrieved some flowers from the outdoors before the cold weather mercilessly dismissed them. Roman Vishniac first met his wife Edith in 1931 in Berlin. "She is unbelievable. I took one look and fell in love with her. She looked like a saint. She is very unusual. We never had a disagreement in 54 years." With the mention of Edith's name he let loose a deep joyful giggle. Vishniac laughed only once during our meeting.

Every other year Vishniac travels to Germany to visit the gravesite of his grandfather Wolf Vishniac. Taking his key he opens the old rusted gates of the cemetery. Once inside he cleans off the gravesite and cuts back the overgrown foliage; if the tombstone has fallen he repositions it. "Once I am gone no one will come to do this."

Roman Vishniac was born on Aug. 19, 1897 in a small town outside Leningrad. Vishniac's father was a Zionist who organized the first Zionist congress for his friend Theodore Hertzl. Vishniac's mother and father were founders of the early ORT society. As a young medical student Vishniac worked to organize the Jewish community to aid the many thousands of Jews who suffered as a result of the pogroms. There is only one time when Vishniac could remember the Jews of Russia being treated humanely, and that was from March to October of 1917 under the rule of Kerensky. "In Russia the anti-Semitism is the strongest; it is in their blood." Shortly after the Russian Revolution the Vishniac family immigrated to Berlin.

Once in Berlin Vishniac began to record the life of the Jewish communities with his camera.

The Nazis believed Vishniac was a Jewish spy. "For photography I was very often put in prison. If I succeeded by bribery to buy myself free then I could photograph again." Vishniac had covered over 5.000 miles by the time he left Europe in 1941...

20 February 2010

Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

Do you recall the blogpost about the great, rusty-voiced Vietnam vet with the used furniture shop in Cohoes? Many readers have mentioned that it was one of their favorite posts. Well, good news folks, he's still there!

And just this weekend, he told me a story...

Every night when Jimmy Durante signed off from The Jimmy Durante Show, the last thing he said was, "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." Who was Mrs. Calabash? Nobody ever really knew the answer.

According to the story, back in the days before Jimmy Durante became Jimmy Durante, he had some work playing ragtime piano. Every day when he went to his job, there was a beautiful and well-respected woman, and every day, he fell more and more in love with her. One day, in spite of the big nose for which he became known, he got up the confidence and asked this woman to marry him. She turned him down.

History holds that somewhere along the way, Jimmy Durante scored his big break, got radio and television airtime, and even his own prime time show. He never forgot about that beautiful lady, though, even though he didn't see or hear of her for many years.

That lady--Mrs. Calabash, she did watch his show. Every night, after mixing with folks like Frank Sinatra and Eddie Jackson, when Jimmy'd say, "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are," she knew he was talking to her.

Well, Jimmy married--first Jeanne Olsen, then Margie Little. Many years later, he saw Mrs. Calabash again. As the time had slipped away, so too had her good looks. Life had not been kind to her. 

And so, though he continued on his own path, Jimmy Durante supported Mrs. Calabash, for the rest of her life. 


Whether completely true or not, it makes for a great story!

13 February 2010

Harmony Mills Interior

Remember the Harmony Mills? Finally got inside the main part of the building! More to come soon...

10 February 2010

Give-away results!

A big congratulations to Emma Llensa, the winner of the 11x17" print of my photograph! : )

For those of you who are interested in obtaining a print of this image, copies are available for purchase.  Send me an e-mail for pricing.

Thank you to all who entered!

05 February 2010

Thank you, readers!

To everyone: 

I am so thrilled you are enjoying this blog! Your feedback is so wonderful.

I am giving away an 11x17 print of one of my photographs (see below)! To enter the drawing, respond in a comment with your first name and email address. The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, February 10 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I will be posting the results, and the winner will be notified by email.


Thank you, readers! 
You keep me perpetually curious : )

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