Visual Practice- Reflective Journal Task Two

Milton Rogovin

Milton Rogovin was an American photographer born December 30th 1909, is New York City, New York. He lived to the incredible age of 101 years old and passed away January 18th 2011 in Buffalo, New York. Rogovin attended Stuyvesant High School and went on to study Optometry and Columbia University; he graduate with a degree in optometry in 1931. He was a part of the House Un-American Activities Committee but was blacklisted from the committee in the50s duet his views on communism, and subsequently lost his optometry practice. After this Rogovin dedicated his life to his phtotography.

‘Lower West Side’ 1972-1977

Rogovin turned to photography as a means of expressing his views of the working class, he was distressed by then great depression and the way in which it affected the working class and the poor and wanted to his photographs to act as a voice for them. His interest in this social class has lead to him being likened to some of the great social documentary photographers of the 19th and 20th centuries, Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis for example.

Milton Rogovin’s impressive collections of work are in the Library of Congress, the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Centre for Creative Photography, and other leading institutes worldwide. Other than a large array of exhibitions and museums though, Rogovin has published any photographic books. For Example ‘The Forgotten Ones’ Buffalo, New York 1985, ‘Windows that open inwards: images of Chile’ 1985, ‘Portraits in Steel’ Ithaca 1993 and ‘Lower West Side’ Buffalo, New York 1975. Lower West side is a series of images he took of residents of a depressed six-block area in Buffalo, although his first series of photographs for ‘Lower West Side’ were taken in 1972, he continued to go back there over the next twenty years to photograph the same working class residents, he re-photographed them twice more before completing the whole collection.

‘Images of Chile’ 1985

In this series ‘Lower West Side’ he photographs the residents and buildings of this run down area in order to try and understand the lives of the poor and working class people in his hometown. The Lower West Side was originally populated by Italians, but in the 1960s the ethnicities living there became much more diverse and it became the home of African Americans, Native Americans,Puerto Ricans and poor white people. The multiple series in this collection are the photographs that i find most striking and interesting when looking at Rogovins work. This is due to the contextual reasoning behind the images, we share an interest in the class divide in society, despite being in different eras. I particularly find Rogovin’s portraits in this collection the most striking for me, as a viewer, I can feel the connection between the subject and the photographer, Rogovin had a genuine interest in the lives of these people and they seem to show a sort of trust, a mutual respect between the photographer and the photographed.

‘Lower West Side’ 1972-1977

One image in particular interests me out of all the portraits in the series. It is the one with the young man and woman in what seems to be they door way to their home. This image strikes me as the most beautiful because despite the old decrepit building behind them, the graffiti on the door and the chipped paintwork, their body language suggests that they have still found love, and that is all they need to be happy. To me as the viewer i take comfort in the fact that the couple in the port seem to be happy despite their poor living conditions. The image is composed using the rule of thirds, using this method draws your eye to the subject making the couple the focal point of the image. The couples body language shows the most in this photograph, she is leaning into him with his arms around her, she is at ease around him and he protects her, they are happy with each other and create a home with one and other in any area or building. The eye contact with the camera creates a sense of pride, they are proud of who they are and their background, this is also reflected in the slight lifting of the mans chin. I think that i find this photograph so interesting because in captures the real life people of the poor and working class, it gives a sense of community and welcomes the viewer into their lives, and this is something I hope to portray in my own images when focussing on different social classes.

‘Lower West Side’ 1972-1977


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