“Social Optometry,” the third and final exhibition in the Picturing the Invisible series, examines the work of social documentary photographer Milton Rogovin, who unflinchingly used his photographs as a vehicle for creating social awareness of working class citizens. The exhibit will run from April 4 through June 16, 2014.
The Thompson Gallery is a teaching gallery at CSW dedicated to exploring a single theme through three separate exhibitions, offering differing vantages of the selected topic, throughout the school year. As social justice is integral to the values and mission of the school, CSW looks to provide imaginative ways to spark discussion through mediums including Gallery exhibits coupled with a curriculum that boasts a variety of courses to reflect the diversity of society and the world. Gallery Director and CSW Art Teacher Todd Bartel worked with Tony Loreti, chair of the visual arts department at CSW to choose the images and curate the Rogovin exhibit.
“I’ve been drawn to the work of Milton Rogovin for years,” said Tony. “I really don’t know any other photographer like him in his unbroken dedication to the under represented and the poor – especially the working poor - in our society. Whether on the streets, in their work places, or in their homes, he had a wonderful ability to get emotionally close to his subjects.”
Mark Rogovin, Milton's son, will be a featured presenter at an upcoming all-school assembly on April 10. In addition to showing Rogovin photographs, he will share a project collaborated on with Michael Frisch, Professor of history and American studies at University at Buffalo, SUNY and principal at The Randforce Associates. Frisch and Rogovin worked together on Portraits in Steel, a book published by Cornell University Press in 1993 that won the Oral History Association Book Prize for 1993-1995. The book covers extensive oral histories to Rogovin portraits, original and re-visited, of his “working people” photo subjects.
A documentary video that is accompanying the exhibition will be shown to the CSW audience, the first to view the version. The film revisits the book, going back to the original audio for the oral history interviews that went into the book’s edited transcripts. The images were deliberately limited to the two or three of each subject that are in the book, the kind of pair or trio Rogovin usually exhibited—rather than attempting a fully unfolded documentary context in photographs.
“This documentary project is a first attempt to combine photographs, especially in this powerful portrait mode, with the voice of the photo subject,” shared Frisch. “The intent is for viewers to experience them—and the implicit dialogue between them—together, heightening the experience of the photograph itself as art, and the deeper social context and expression embedded in the images and explicit in the audio clips.”
Frisch will present a Gallery Talk at the Thompson Gallery on Saturday, April 26, from 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.