Milton Rogovin, an optometrist and photographer who documented life in Buffalo's East Side and Lower West Side, died in January in his home in Buffalo at the age of 101. His Lower West Side project, with photos from 1969-2002, is a fascinating look at life in the Lower West Side over three decades.
Mr Rogovin was born in December 1909 in Brooklyn, NY to Jewish Lithuanian immigrant parents. He became an optomotrist in 1931 and went on to serve in the Army after his parents lost their home and business during the depression and his father died of a heart attack. That, in combination with clients that he saw in his optomoetry practice in Manhattan, made him more and more aware of the lives of the poor and unemployed, “the forgotten ones”, as he called them.
He moved to Buffalo in 1938, opening a practice on Chippewa Street, providing services to union workers. In 1942, he bought his first camera.
After being ostracized for being a communist, he began to take pictures to occupy his time. Living on his wife’s salary as a teacher, he felt a comraderie with the unemployed and working poor and began to focus his picture taking on other people in Buffalo’s poorer and “dispossessed” neighborhoods. His pictures were usually simply people he met on the street and he never instructed them on what to do, allowing them to be natural.
In 1972, he earned a Master of Arts in American Studies from the University of Buffalo, where he also taught documentary photography.
You can listen to Milton Rogovin describe his Lower West Side series and his earlier Storefront Churches series from the East Side at SoundPortraits.org.
--This original post was written by Poppy Zieman. Laura threw in some extra links and posted it.