Milton Rogovin: Social Documentary Photographs

Milton Rogovin, Family of Miners series: Black woman with yarn at machine in factory, white ear protection, 1984-1989. Milton Rogovin: Social Documentary Photographs

Artstor is collaborating with The Rogovin Collection to share 260 images of Milton Rogovin's social documentary photography in the Digital Library. A documentary photographer and political activist, Milton Rogovin (b. 1909) is best known for his portraits of the poor and working class, often considered "the forgotten ones," and his depictions of their lives, communities, and working conditions. Trained as an optometrist, Rogovin turned to photography when his political activism drew the attention of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1957 and negatively impacted his practice in Buffalo, NY. In 1958, Rogovin began his first photographic series, documenting Store Front Churches in the African-American community in Buffalo's East Side. He continued to photograph the working people and ethnic communities in the Buffalo area, often photographing his subjects both at their workplaces and in their homes. Starting in 1972, Rogovin photographed families in the area near his optometry office in Buffalo's Lower West Side, the city's poorest and ethnically-diverse neighborhood. Over the course of three decades, Rogovin would return to his subjects, in some cases tracing the same family's history in a series of triptychs and quartets. Further afield, Rogovin explored the plight of workers, particularly miners, in the small towns of Appalachia. In 1983, Rogovin received the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, which allowed him to expand his "Family of Miners" series to include workers in Scotland, France, Spain, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, Mexico, China, and Zimbabwe. 

Throughout his career, Milton Rogovin's work has appeared in more than 160 journals, magazines, and other publications. Rogovin has participated in 60 solo exhibitions and more than 30 group exhibitions. His prints and negatives have been acquired by the Library of Congress and the J. Paul Getty Museum. His master set of photographs is at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, Tucson.