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December 30: Photographer of the Working Class

December 30, 2014
529562Milton Rogovin, an optometrist in Buffalo, New York whose harassment by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee led him to embrace photography as a new career and a new tool of social change, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1909. During a life that lasted 101 years, Rogovin photographed working-class people in Buffalo, Appalachia, Mexico, Chile, on Native American reservations, and elsewhere in the world — black and white photographs “from the inside, so to speak,” wrote Hilton Kramer in the New York Times, “concentrating on family life, neighborhood business, celebrations, romance, recreation and the particulars of individuals’ existence.” Rogovin served as a doctor in the U.S. armed forces in England for three years during World War II and acquired his first camera in 1942. In Buffalo, he was active in the Optical Workers Union, worked on registering African-Americans to vote, and served as librarian for local branch of the Communist Party. Labeled by a Buffalo newspaper as “Buffalo’s Number One Red” after he refused to testify before HUAC, he lost half his business to ostracization and lived on his wife Anne’s salary as a teacher while intensifying his photo work. His photographs are today archived in the Library of Congress and are in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Center for Creative Photography, and other notable museums and galleries. To see an award-winning short about Rogovin’s work, look below. “I’ve concentrated on the poor. The rich ones have their own photographers.” —Milton Rogovin19rogovin-articleInline