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Remembering the Forgotten Ones: Selections from the Milton Rogovin Collection

On View Wednesday, January 1–Sunday, March 2, 2003

Milton Rogovin is respected internationally as one of America’s finest social documentary photographers. The directness and underlying compassion in Rogovin’s work is comparable to Lewis Hine’s early twentieth-century photography, which ultimately helped protect children and abused workers when it inspired new labor laws. Selections from the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Rogovin Collection represented prime examples from all of his series, dating from 1958 to the present. After being featured at the Burchfield Penney and WNED Broadcast Center, the exhibition raveled to New York in June 2003 to the New-York Historical Society. In addition to honoring Rogovin’s lifetime achievements, the exhibition also celebrated the generous gift of 225 photographs made by Robert M. and Mary Ann Budin in 2001.

Milton Rogovin was born in 1909 in New York and moved to Buffalo in 1938, where he lived until his death in 2010. He was the recipient of numerous awards including the 2000 New York State Governor’s Arts Council Award and honorary doctoral degrees from Buffalo State College, the State University of New York at Buffalo, and D’Youville College. In 1983, he was bestowed with the distinguished W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award for Humanistic Photography.

Among many prestigious institutions that own his art, the Library of Congress holds 1,500 Rogovin photographs and negatives. The acquisition marked the first time since 1970 that a living photographer’s work was accepted into the Library of Congress collection. Other major institutions with sizable holdings of his photographs include the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, and the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Burchfield Penney’s Rogovin Collection includes portraits of people from around the world in locations as far away as coal mines in China and as close as neighborhoods in Buffalo. The poignant Triptych Series chronicles families living on Buffalo’s Lower West Side over several decades, providing visible evidence of changes affecting older and younger generations. In a few instances, Rogovin went back a fourth time for a new image, thus creating quartets. Photographs from the Working People series include images of steelworkers from companies that have since closed. Over the course of his career, Rogovin traveled around the world taking portraits of miners in Appalachia, Chile, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, and Zimbabwe. There are also portraits taken of residents from Yemeni (1976-77) who live in a neighborhood south of Buffalo. As well, there are examples from his early series, Mexico (1950s) and Storefront Churches (1958-61), and important social commentary in Children Having Children (1993).

Internationally, Milton Rogovin’s photographs reach a diverse audience through the publication of images in books and periodicals, and through exhibitions at colleges, universities, galleries, museums, and public spaces. The Burchfield Penney Art Center presented two major solo exhibitions of his photographs: Working People in 1982 and Triptychs: Buffalo’s Lower West Side Revisited in 1993, as well as a smaller exhibition in 1998 about mothers, fathers, and their children. Charles Kuralt interviewed him for a “CBS Sunday Morning” program in 1994, the same year Rogovin received the Citizen of Distinction Award from Buffalo’s Mayor and Common Council.

Remembering the Forgotten Ones was presented in partnership with the New-York Historical Society in New York City. This project was supported by generous grants from HealthNow New York Inc., the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Richard Florsheim Art Fund and the President's Council on Equity and Campus Diversity, Buffalo State College. Presentation at WNED was made possible, in part, by Lexus.

Programs:

· A Conversation with Milton Rogovin, December 8: renowned documentary photographer Milton Rogovin discussed his work and read poems to accompany some of his photographs. Craig Centrié, Ph.D., executive director of El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera and assistant professor of education at Medaille College, presented a view of Rogovin's work through a Latino cultural lens.

Teacher Workshop, January 15. Diane Koeppel, former assistant professor of art education at Buffalo State College, led a multidisciplinary teacher training session exploring ways to use Milton Rogovin’s photographs and concepts of family and community photo-documentation in the classroom (grades K-12). The workshop included a tour of the exhibition and a CBS documentary segment about Rogovin. Participating teachers received a curriculum resource guide and reproductions of Rogovin’s photographs for use in their schools.

· A Family Journey: Scrapbooks in the Making, January 25 – Lauren Tent, photographer and education director of CEPA Gallery, assisted participants in creating photo-documentary family scrapbook of personal stories, photographs and family histories. Disposable cameras and instruction were provided to enable parents and children to continue their scrapbooks at home.

Documentary Photography: Continuing a Tradition in Western New York, Feb. 2. This panel discussion began with a brief overview of the field of documentary photography, moderated by Robert Hirsch, author of A History of Photograph and, associate editor of Photovision Magazine, and former director of CEPA Gallery. The panelists included three photographers: Milton Rogovin; Marion Faller, former University at Buffalo professor; and David Gordon, an instructor at the Cora P. Maloney College of the University at Buffalo (note: a fourth photographer, Brendan Bannon, was unable to return to the United States to participate). Their discussion focused on diverse aesthetic and philosophical approaches to documentary photography.

· Poetry Reading by Faye Lone, February 9. Tonawanda/Seneca poet Faye Lone read poems she has written that were inspired by Milton Rogovin’s photographic portraits of members of the Native American community in Western New York. She also showed the related Rogovin images.

· A Conversation with Milton Rogovin II, February 13. Milton Rogovin discussed his experiences photographing the ethnic communities of Western New York. Felix Armfield, associate professor of history and social studies at the College, commented on the role of African Americans in the steel industry, providing a context for Rogovin’s documentation of steelworkers. This program was co-sponsored by the Buffalo State College Minority Student Services and the African American Students Organization.

Forgotten Ones in Sound, February 15. Established as a non-profit organization in 1994 by MacArthur Fellow David Isay, Sound Portraits Productions is an independent production company dedicated to telling stories that bring neglected American voices to a national audience and broadcast on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Isay played excerpts and talked about their award-winning documentaries, such as Ghetto Life 101 and Flophouse. He also commented on his work-in-progress about Rogovin's Quartets, the fourth series of photographs of people living on Buffalo's Lower West Side.