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Featured Acquisition: Milton Rogovin Photographs

In 1999, the Library of Congress acquired the complete archives of social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin. Influenced by the work of Lewis Hine and Paul Strand, Rogovin’s photographic career spans more than forty years.

Mother Green with bible
Milton Rogovin. Mother Green with bible. Gelatin silver photographic print.[between 1958 and 1963]

catalog record/rights information

Mr. Rogovin is a recipient of the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Award for humanistic photography and a New York State Governor’s Arts Award. Mr. Rogovin's work has been published in several monographs, including The Forgotten Ones, Windows That Open Inward: Images of Chile, with poems by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda; Portraits in Steel, with interviews by Michael Frisch, and Triptychs: Buffalo's Lower West Side Revisited. In addition to the Library of Congress, Rogovin’s work is in the collections of more than 20 institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House and the J. Paul Getty Center.

First to be processed, and now available to researchers working in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, are Milton Rogovin’s photographs of Buffalo, New York’s storefront churches, made between 1958 and 1963 (LOT 13523 -- see catalog record). These photographs document over time the outward appearance and interior life of independent African American churches. Rogovin photographed congregations during the religious services, capturing the energy and emotions of the worshipers singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. He photographed the buildings, too, exterior and interior, emphasizing the transitory nature of churches and congregations. The series consists of 33-8 x 10" photographs printed by the photographer and 75 contact sheets.

Mother Tokyo laying on hands
Milton Rogovin. Mother Tokyo laying on hands. Gelatin silver photographic print. [between 1958 and 1963]

catalog record/rights information

The Buffalo storefront series was Rogovin’s first photographic project. William H. Tallmadge, a professor of music at the State University College in Buffalo, encouraged him to photograph the Black churches while Tallmadge recorded their music. Rogovin developed his camera skills during the project, especially the use of flash for the church interiors. In 1962, the photography journal Aperture published Rogovin’s photographs of the storefront churches along with text by W. E. B. DuBois.

In addition to the Buffalo storefront church series, Rogovin traveled the world making portraits of working-class men and women on the job and in their homes. His dignified portraits of workers speak of the dreams and aspirations common to humanity. These photographs will be processed in the near future.

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  March 25, 2022
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