September 19 - October 31, 2009
This December photographer Milton Rogovin will celebrate his 100th birthday. Gallery Luisotti will honor Rogovin’s accomplished career as a social documentary photographer with a special exhibition focusing on his photographs of Buffalo, New York. Residing in Buffalo since his birth in 1909, Rogovin’s career is marked by a sincere documentation of the city’s people. Working in a particularly American photographic tradition, where social politics are as important as aesthetics, Rogovin’s work belongs alongside that of Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, and Walker Evans, in its honest presentation of contemporary life.
Milton Rogovin began photographing Buffalo as early as the mid-1950s. At the time he was particularly attracted to storefront churches, and the African-American community that flourished around these ad-hoc places of worship. It was Rogovin’s first serious venture into social documentary photography. He said he felt the project “could speak out about the problems of the poor, but this time through… photography.” The series was completed by 1962, and was featured in Minor White’s Aperture, accompanied by a text from W. E. B. DuBois.
Throughout the 1960s, Rogovin would travel to Chile to collaborate with poet Pablo Neruda, as well as to West Virginia, where he photographed the region’s destitute communities. However, by the 1970s, Rogovin had returned to photographing Buffalo, establishing himself as a foremost chronicler of urban America’s lower class. Rogovin photographed those living on Buffalo’s East side, where the storefront churches had once stood. He also documented the city’s Lower West Side, which had been particularly affected by the economic woes of the mid-1970s. In an era of economic downturn, Rogovin found family and community as an enduring structure. Returning to several of his subjects in the mid-1980s, then again in the 1990s, and some a fourth time at the beginning of the 21st century, Rogovin reaffirmed the importance of community structure. At the time, he similarly made pairings of workers in their Buffalo homes, and a second time while on the job. Through this work, Rogovin found an America whose sense for community transcended economic disparity.