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Milton RogovinMilton Rogovin: Photographer of Los Olvidades (The Forgotten Ones)
"The rich have their own photographers... I photograph the forgotten ones." Milton Rogovin
Milton Rogovin was born in New York City in 1909. He graduated from Columbia University in 1931 with a degree in optometry and a deep concern for the rights of the worker. He moved to Buffalo in 1938, where he established his own optometric practice in 1939. He married Anne Snetsky in 1942. That same year, he purchased his first camera, and was inducted into the U.S. Army, where he served in England as an optometrist until 1945. Upon his discharge, he returned to his optometric practice and his growing family. By 1947, the Rogovins had two daughters, Ellen and Paula, and a son, Mark.
Rogovin was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952. The Buffalo Evening News headline about his testimony named him "Buffalo's Top Red" and the persecution that followed significantly impacted his business and his family. Rogovin later stated that though his voice had been silenced, he would not be silenced. He demonstrated this in 1958 when he picked up his camera and began making images that communicated his deep desire for a more just and equal society. Rogovin later earned a Master of Arts in American Studies from the University of Buffalo in 1972, where he taught documentary photography until 1974.
Rogovin's lens has illuminated prominent social issues of the day: the plight of the miner in ten nations; the decline of the steel industry in Buffalo; the common struggle of the poor and working people living in Buffalo's Lower West Side; the celebration of spirit in the storefront churches of Buffalo; the pride of the people of Chile and the voice of its native son Pablo Neruda. Rogovin's sole purpose, as timeless as it is universal, is to help the viewer see the people in his photographs in a new light, as people of dignity and strength.
Rogovin's first photographic series, documenting storefront church services in Buffalo, took three years to complete. In 1962, photographs from this series were published in Aperture magazine, a prestigious photography publication in the United States. Noted African American historian W.E. B. DuBois introduced Rogovin's work to an audience beyond Buffalo with his accompanying essay. Rogovin also traveled to Chile in the 1960s at the invitation of Pablo Neruda to photograph the Chilean people. These photographs later joined Neruda's poetry in a book called Windows That Open Inward: Images of Chile.
Throughout Milton Rogovin's career, his wife Anne was his collaborator, organizer and companion. Over the course of fifty years and across five continents, Anne worked alongside Milton in his photographic ventures while pursuing her own full-time career as a special education teacher, author, activist and mother of three children. Anne's most valuable traits were her unassailable good nature and her diminutive appearance, which opened the doors of many homes that might ordinarily be wary of a man with a camera.
Milton and Anne Rogovin began their travels to Appalachia in the 1960s to photograph miners and the communities where they lived. They returned nine times through the early 1980s. In addition to the miners of Appalachia, Milton also photographed Scottish and French miners. He received the coveted W. Eugene Smith Award for Documentary Photography in 1983, which enabled Milton and Anne to travel to China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Mexico, Spain, and Zimbabwe to continue the "Family of Miners" series.
In 1972, at the age of 63, Rogovin began to photograph Buffalo's Lower West Side, the city's poorest neighborhood. Milton and Anne Rogovin returned to the neighborhood for three decades, creating triptychs and quartets by photographing the same individuals or families with each visit. The result is a collection of photographs which provide tremendous insight into the lives of Puerto Rican, African American, Native American, Asian and Italian families over the course of thirty years. In 2000, the Rogovins collaborated with David Isay, the Executive Director of Sound Portraits Productions, on a documentary film, a book and an exhibition. Rogovin completed the Lower West Side series at the age of 92.
Throughout his accomplished photographic career, Rogovin's work has appeared in greater than 160 journals, magazines and other publications. Rogovin has participated in more than 30 group shows and 60 solo exhibitions, and has had eight books published on his photography. Additionally, a one hour documentary film was made about his life and photography.
Rogovin's photographs are in the permanent collections of over two dozen prominent museums around the world, including the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Center For Creative Photography at the University of Arizona-Tucson and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
In 1999, the Library of Congress acquired 1,130 of Rogovin's master prints, his negatives, contact sheets, and published works as part of the Library's collection. The irony was not lost on Rogovin that the very government that persecuted him in the 1950s now celebrated his defiant work as a champion of the poor and working class half a century later. Rogovin was the first photographer in thirty years selected for this honor, ensuring that his legacy will be preserved for generations to come.
© Mark Rogovin (2007)
The Rogovin Collection, LLC
1994 Ph.D. University at Buffalo
1972 M.A. University at Buffalo
1969 B.S. Columbia University
2006 Milton Rogovin: The Making of a Social Documentary Photographer, Center for Creative Photography, The Univesity of Arizona, Tucson
2005 Milton Rogovin: Working People/Family of Miners, Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
2004 Residents, Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
2004 Recent Acquisitions: Eugène Atget, Brett Weston, William Garnett, and Milton Rogovin, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
2003 Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones, New York Historical Society, New York City
2002 Milton Rogovin, Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
2000 Milton Rogovin, A Retrospective, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto
1999 Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society
1998 Birchfield Penny Art Gallery, Buffalo
1998 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
1993 David Anderson Gallery, Buffalo
1991 National Museum of American History, Washington DC
1985 Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
1984 Photography/Buffalo/A Selection, Capen Gallery, University at Buffalo
1982 Milton Rogovin, Fotografier, Presus Fotomuseum, Horten, Norway
1982 Milton Rogovin—Lower West Side, Buffalo, New York, Canon Photo Gallery, Amsterdam
1982 Working People, Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
1978 Milton Rogovin, Fotografi Centrum, Stockholm, Sweden
1976 Lower West Side, International Center of Photography, New York
1976 Milton Rogovin: Photographs, Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo
1976 The Photographic Museum of Finland, Helsinki
1975 Milton Rogovin: Lower West Side, Buffalo, New York, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
1971 International Museum of Photography, Eastman House, Rochester
1969 Frotsburg State College, Frotsburg, Maryland
1968 International Museum of Photography, Eastman House, Rochester
1965 Pennsylvania State University, University Park
1964 Museum of Negro Art and History, Chicago
1964 Illinois Institute of Design
Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Art Institue of Chicago
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Center for Creative Photography, Tuscon, Arizona
Centre George Pompidou, Paris
Centre Canadien d’Architecture
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Milwaukee Art Museum
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Museum of Modern Art, New York
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Indiana
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Wilson Centre for Photography