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Gene Witkowski

Gene Witkowski

(b. 1947)
American
Born: Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.

Gene Witkowski is a photographer most associated with images of the grain elevators and other decaying landmarks of the Buffalo River waterfront in Buffalo, N.Y. Born in the city’s Old First Ward, he grew up in the shadow of this once-thriving industrial zone. He studied photography in high school and joined the Air Force as a photographer in 1965. The position brought him to Thailand in 1969; he then returned many times later as a civilian to document the local population. His work was shown in various exhibitions in the 1970s and 1980s, after which he abandoned the artform until the advent of digital photography in the early 2000s. Since then he has exhibited work at the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Impact Artists Gallery, Art Dialogue, and Buffalo Big Print (all located in Buffalo), among other venues. [1]

A protégé of Buffalo-based photographer Milton Rogovin, Witkowski documented the lives of the Irish-American working class men who once labored as grain “scoopers” unloading freighters as the practice was discontinued in early 2003. Writing about another series of images of the towering grain elevators, Artvoice critic J. Tim Raymond noted:

“Witkowski frames his scene like the artist Charles Sheeler, known for his cropped, intensely geometric portrayals of early-20th-century industrial landscapes. Men of the hardhat fraternity, moving about their solitary duties with purposeful strides in all weather, appear like human punctuation to the visually out-massing weight of the freighters, silos, grain shoots, and gaping cargo holds. There is a reverential quality to these works, a sense of mute purpose viewed from a respectful distance.” [2]

 

[1] Biographical information derived from an undated artist’s statement by Gene Witkowski.

[2] J. Tim Raymond, “Gene Witkowski's photographs at the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Center,” Artvoice, vol. 11, no. 8 (02/23/2012), http://artvoice.com/issues/v11n8/art_scene/waterfronts. (Accessed 6/27/2014)