Milton Rogovin, Working Class Artist and Activist, Presente!

1. Milton Rogovin, Photographer, Dies at 101
   New York Times, January 18, 2010

2. The Working-Class Eye of Milton Rogovin
   New exhibition - Roosevelt University, Chicago
   January 20 - June 30, 2011


Milton Rogovin, Photographer, Dies at 101

by Benjamin Genocchio

New York Times
January 18, 2011

Milton Rogovin, an optometrist and persecuted leftist who
took up photography as a way to champion the underprivileged
and went on to become one of America's most dedicated social
documentarians, died on Tuesday at his home in Buffalo. He
was 101.

He died of natural causes, his son, Mark Rogovin, said.

Mr. Rogovin chronicled the lives of the urban poor and
working classes in Buffalo, Appalachia and elsewhere for
more than 50 years. His direct photographic style in stark
black and white evokes the socially minded work that Walker
Evans, Dorothea Lange and Gordon Parks produced for the Farm
Security Administration during the Depression. Today his
entire archive resides in the Library of Congress.

Mr. Rogovin (pronounced ruh-GO-vin) came to wide notice in
1962 after documenting storefront church services on
Buffalo's poor and predominantly African-American East Side.
The images were published in Aperture magazine with an
introduction by W. E. B. Du Bois, who described them as
"astonishingly human and appealing."

He went on to photograph Buffalo's impoverished Lower West
Side and American Indians on reservations in the Buffalo
area. He traveled to West Virginia and Kentucky to
photograph miners, returning to Appalachia each summer with
his wife, Anne Rogovin, into the early 1970s. In the '60s he
went to Chile at the invitation of the poet Pablo Neruda to
photograph the landscape and the people. The two
collaborated on a book, "Windows That Open Inward: Images of

In a 1976 review of a Rogovin show of photographs from
Buffalo at the International Center of Photography in
Manhattan, the critic Hilton Kramer wrote of Mr. Rogovin in
The New York Times: "He sees something else in the life of
this neighborhood - ordinary pleasures and pastimes,
relaxation, warmth of feeling and the fundamentals of social
connection. He takes his pictures from the inside, so to
speak, concentrating on family life, neighborhood business,
celebrations, romance, recreation and the particulars of
individuals' existence."

Milton Rogovin was born on Dec. 30, 1909, in Brooklyn, the
third of three sons of Jewish immigrant parents from
Lithuania. His parents, Jacob Rogovin and the former Dora
Shainhouse, operated a dry goods business, first in
Manhattan on Park Avenue near 112th Street and later in the
Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. After attending Stuyvesant
High School in Manhattan, the young Mr. Rogovin graduated
from Columbia University in 1931 with a degree in optometry;
four months later, after the family had lost the store and
its home to bankruptcy during the Depression, his father
died of a heart attack.

Working as an optometrist in Manhattan, Mr. Rogovin became
increasingly distressed at the plight of the poor and
unemployed - "the forgotten ones," he called them - and
increasingly involved in leftist political causes.

"I was a product of the Great Depression, and what I saw and
experienced myself made me politically active," he said in a
1994 interview with The New York Times.

He began attending classes sponsored by the Communist Party-
run New York Workers School, began to read the Communist
newspaper The Daily Worker and was introduced to the social-
documentary photographs of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine.

Mr. Rogovin moved to Buffalo in 1938 and opened his own
optometric office on Chippewa Street the next year,
providing service to union workers. In 1942 he married Anne
Snetsky before volunteering for the Army and serving for
three years in England, where he worked as an optometrist.
Also in 1942, he bought a camera.

Returning to Buffalo after the war (his brother Sam, also an
optometrist, managed the practice in his absence), Mr.
Rogovin joined the local chapter of the Optical Workers
Union and served as librarian for the Buffalo branch of the
Communist Party.

In 1957, with cold war anti-Communism rife in the United
States, he was called before the House Un-American
Activities Committee but refused to testify. Soon afterward,
The Buffalo Evening News labeled him "Buffalo's Number One
Red," and he and his family were ostracized. With his
business all but ruined by the publicity, he began to fill
time by taking pictures, focusing on Buffalo's poor and
dispossessed in the neighborhood around his practice while
living on his wife's salary as a teacher and being mentored
by the photographer Minor White.

His wife, a special education teacher, was a collaborator
throughout his career and helped him organize his
photographs until her death, in 2003.

Mr. Rogovin's photographs were typically naturalistic
portraits of people he met on the street. "The first six
months were very difficult," he recalled in a 2003
interview, "because they thought I was from the police
department or the F.B.I."

But he gradually built trust, giving away prints of
portraits in exchange for sittings. He never told his
subjects what to do, allowing them to pose in settings and
clothing of their own choosing.

"These aren't cool sociological renderings but intensely
personal evocations of a world whose faces are often missing
in a culture that celebrates the beautiful and the
powerful," Julie Salamon wrote in The Times in 2003 on the
occasion of a Rogovin exhibition at the New-York Historical

Mr. Rogovin began his Storefront Church series in 1961 at
the invitation of a friend, William Tallmadge, a professor
of music at the State University of New York at Buffalo who
was making recordings at a black church on the city's East
Side. The success of the series encouraged Mr. Rogovin to
devote more and more time to photography and persuaded him
that photography could be an instrument of social change.

In 1972 he earned a Master of Arts in American studies from
the University at Buffalo, where he taught documentary
photography from 1972 to 1974. The next year he held his
first major exhibition, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in

In the next years his photographs were published in several
books and widely exhibited; a show of his work is currently
on view at the Gage Gallery in Chicago. Many are in the
collections of museums, including the Bibliothèque Nationale
in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul
Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert
Museum in London. The Library of Congress acquired his
archive in 1999.

In addition to his son, of Forest Park, Ill., Mr. Rogovin is
survived by two daughters, Ellen Rogovin Hart of Melrose
Park, Pa., and Paula Rogovin of Teaneck, N.J.; five
grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

In his later years, as his health declined, Mr. Rogovin used
a wheelchair and no longer took photographs. In 2009 he was
nominated for a National Medal of Arts but was not selected.

His activism, however, was undimmed - he attended political
rallies and antiwar protests into his final years - and his
social conscience remained acute.

"All my life I've focused on the poor," he said in 2003.
"The rich ones have their own photographers."


The Working-Class Eye of Milton Rogovin

January 20 - June 30, 2011
Gage Gallery
Monday - Friday, 9-6 p.m., Saturday, 10-4 p.m.
Roosevelt University
18 S. Michigan Ave.

Opening Reception with
Presentation by Mark Rogovin
Thursday, Jan. 20, 5 - 8 p.m.
For a full calendar of exhibit events:

Gage Gallery exhibit featuring photography by Milton Rogovin
opens Thursday on heels of 101-year-old Rogovin's death

Posted: 01/18/2011

A one-of-a-kind, vintage photo exhibit that tells compelling
stories about work and working-class people through the eyes
of renowned photographer Milton Rogovin opens Thursday, Jan.
20 at Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan
Ave., Chicago.

Renown for his photography chronicling work and workers from
around the world, Rogovin, 101, died Tuesday at his home in
Buffalo, NY.  Read the New York Times obituary  to learn
more about this celebrated artist and photographer.

The debut exhibit, The Working-Class Eye of Milton Rogovin,
features some striking images of workers from the
photographer's collection that have never been seen before
by the public. An opening night reception for the exhibit
will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20 at the Gage

"Milton Rogovin is known all over the world for his
photography of working-class people," said Roosevelt
University Professor and Gage Gallery Director Michael
Ensdorf of Rogovin, who is frequently compared to the great
social documentary photographers of the 19th and 20th

Born in 1909 in New York City, Rogovin went to Buffalo, New
York, for work as an optometrist. Involved in political work
as well, Rogovin looked to socialism as a model for
improving the lot of workers and was called before the House
Unamerican Activities Committee in 1957. As a result of
this, Rogovin's business dwindled and he decided to pursue
photography as a means to express the worth and dignity of
people who make their livings under modest and difficult

"Over the years, people have asked permission to show
specific series of my father's work or they have said, `You
decide what you want exhibited," said Mark Rogovin, son of
the documentary photographer. "This show is different and
very exciting for my family because it is one of those rare
times when organizers of a show took the time to choose the
images themselves and to exhibit them uniquely through the
lens of the working-class eye."

Rogovin opened his father's vast collection to Ensdorf, who
curated the new exhibit, in consultation with Roosevelt
labor historians Erik Gellman and Jack Metzgar.  The three
Roosevelt professors spent more than four months sifting
through more than 1,000 photos of working-class people taken
by Rogovin during the last half century in order to present
the exhibit that is unlike any previous Rogovin show.

Sponsored by Roosevelt's College of Arts and Sciences, the
Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies and the Labor and
Working-Class History Association, the exhibit will run
through June 30. It is made possible by the generous
financial support of Roosevelt alumna Susan B. Rubnitz.
Exhibit viewing hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays
through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. For more
information, visit

Opened in 2000, Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery is
Chicago's premier space for social documentary photography.
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago and across the
street from Millennium Park, the gallery hosts a number of
free, educational exhibits annually, and two of its recent
exhibits - Eugene Richards' A Procession of Them: The Plight
of the Mentally Disabled and Documenting the Global
Recession have been rated among the top five documentary
photography shows exhibited in 2010 in Chicago by New City


Exhibition made possible by generous financial support from
Susan B. Rubnitz.

Sponsored by Roosevelt University's College of Arts and
Sciences, the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies, and
the Labor and Working-Class History Association.

For information


Marxism-Thaxis mailing list
To change your options or unsubscribe go to:

Reply via email to