Associated Press reports:
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Milton Rogovin, a social documentary photographer who built a life's work by looking through a lens at people who were invisible to others, died Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, at age 101.
Joe Kemp from "Working People, 1976 - 1987": Commenting on this body of work Rogovin said, "In 1975 I closed my optometric office in order to do a photo series in the steel mills of the Buffalo area. In this series, I tried, if possible, to film the workers both at work and at home with their families."
"Appalachia, 1962 - 1987: of this body of work Rovogin said, "Mainly I concentrated on the families who lived in the mining areas. I photographed them in their homes and on their porches, where they sat to get some relief from the stifling heat..."
Worker in a Ford factory
"Lower West Side, 1972 - 1977: In 1972, a patient from Milton Rogovin's optometric office invited him to visit her home, just a few blocks from his office. Milton was captivated by the home and community. The Lower West Side series evolved as he began photographing the six square block area.
After being blacklisted in the communist scare of the 1950s, Rogovin dedicated his life to photography. His pictures documented the lives of the poor, the dispossessed, and the working class— in particular those living in a six-square-block neighborhood in Buffalo near his optometry practice.
"He referred to these people as the 'forgotten ones,'" his son said. "These were poor and working people who were not ever in the limelight."
Rogovin found "forgotten ones" on New York Indian reservations and in far-flung corners of China, Zimbabwe, France, Scotland and Spain.
His first project was a documentary series on Buffalo's black churches. Living on his wife's schoolteacher salary, he traveled to Appalachia, Chile and Mexico to take portraits of working people — always using a vintage Rolleiflex, a bare bulb flash, occasionally a tripod, and black and white film.
Born in New York City in 1909, Rogovin moved to Buffalo in 1938 to practice as an optometrist. He married Anne Setters in 1942, the same year he bought his first camera and was drafted into the U.S. Army. After returning from the war, he organized an optometrists' union in Buffalo and served as a librarian in the city's Communist Party. In 1957, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
"Rogovin, named as top red in Buffalo, balks at nearly all queries," read the headline the next day in the hometown Buffalo Evening News.
With his optometry business sliced in half because of negative publicity, Rogovin turned to photography — although he never studied it formally.
"The rich have their photographers," Rogovin often said. "I photograph the forgotten ones."
Rogovin is survived by two daughters, Ellen Rogovin Hart and Paula Rogovin; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A master collection of 4,000 of his images are stored at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In addition, all his negatives and contact sheets, plus 1,300 prints and 20,000 pieces of correspondence, are kept at the Library of Congress.