MILTON ROGOVIN: BUFFALO’ The case of the Jewish optometrist Milton Rogovin is a sobering reminder of the adage that what goes around comes around. Persecuted in the 1950s because of his activities in the Communist Party, he is now celebrated as one of the great American documentary photographers of the postwar period. In 1999 the United States government, which had hauled him before the House Un-American Activities Committee, embraced him as a social and civil rights pioneer when the Library of Congress acquired more than 1,100 of his master prints, along with negatives and contact sheets. And now comes this 97-year-old artist’s first large-scale gallery exhibition in Chelsea at Danziger Projects, focusing on his three-decade-long series of portraits of residents of the Lower West Side of Buffalo.
A committed social-documentary artist, he shows little in the way of compositional tricks or technical frills. Nor was he interested in staging scenes or capturing decisive, dramatic moments. Mr. Rogovin wanted to show everyday people in their everyday lives — young men in a bar; a girl on her way to school; a young boy lifting weights. His pictures are nonjudgmental, depicting his poor, frequently (but not exclusively) black subjects gently and lovingly. His photographs may not be great art, but they show America as it really was. (Through Nov. 24, Danziger Projects, 521 West 26th Street, Chelsea, 212-629-6778, danzigerprojects.com.) BENJAMIN GENOCCHIO