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The Rogovin experience

Resource:Art opens a multifaceted exhibition and mural project

Untitled (025), from ES series by social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin

Photos courtesy the Rogovin Collection, LLC


Following the final Eminent event, Resource:Art opens a multifaceted exhibition and mural project for the work of internationally known social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin. The exhibition, opening May 5, takes place at the Buffalo Center for Art and Technology (BCAT) at 1220 Main Street, in the Artspace building. BCAT is dedicated to keeping youth in school and assisting adults in securing living-wage jobs; a portion of the proceeds from sales of the work will benefit the organization. BCAT is holding a ticketed catered preview event on Wednesday, May 3, for the exhibition.


Rogovin spent his entire career creating photographs that underscore the humanity of working people. He made no attempt to sidestep his intent to speak out on social issues through images of those he referred to as “the forgotten ones,” individuals and groups marginalized by society. In 1957, Rogovin, a Buffalo optometrist, was actively registering black voters when he was abruptly called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The Buffalo Evening News named him “The Top Communist in Buffalo.” His business declined, but Rogovin refused to be silenced. The following year, he began a new career as a photographer committed to a “more just and equal society.” It was a vocation that lasted more than fifty years and took the artist and his assistant/wife, Anne, across five continents. In 2011, the legendary artist passed away at age 101.


Rogovin’s most noted work in Buffalo began in 1972, when the artist was sixty-three. He photographed individuals and families in the city’s Lower West Side, then its poorest neighborhood. He returned for the next three decades, rephotographing the same people. “In both the Eminent Series, and the Milton Rogovin Project, the goal is to celebrate the artists, as well as create layered experiences,” says Samuels, “We are offering the community an opportunity for engagement on several levels.” The Rogovin experience will include a BCAT photography class taught by local photographer Michael Mulley. BCAT students will shoot at locations where Rogovin worked years earlier, and approach portraiture in a similar social documentary manner. 


“The project will also include the creation of two large-scale outdoor murals of Rogovin photographs, embedded in the neighborhoods that served as the sources for his images,” adds Samuels. “Once again, the goal is to create a multilayered opportunity in which to celebrate the artist’s work.” The murals will be overseen by former Buffalo artist Max Collins, who recently moved to Portland. BCAT students will assist Collins in creating his signature oversized wheat-pasted wall photos, which are well-known throughout Buffalo. The Foundry Buffalo, a business incubator and makerspace on Buffalo’s East Side, will be the site of one mural. As this article went to press, a West Side location had not been finalized. 


Tucker hopes that presenting these important historical photographs from Buffalo’s past—some never before exhibited—within a center for at-risk youth “will entice these young minds to learn more about the artist, his process, and his goal of a world where all people are equal. We are always looking for new ways to interact with the community,” she adds, “and to create art lovers at an early age.”         


Artist, educator, and writer Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Spree.

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