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Grand seductions

By GREG COOK  |  December 16, 2008

Milton Rogovin is a 98-year-old Buffalo leftie who took up photography when his optometry business fell apart after he'd been hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1958. The heart of his work — and his 29 photos on view at Gallery Kayafas — is his four-decade portrait of the cool cats, stern moms, and stylish ladies of Buffalo's impoverished Lower West Side. The years have given his black-and-white shots the allure of nostalgia, but in the past I've gone back and forth about his artistry — sometimes it feels dull. This time, though, I'm swayed by his straight-ahead documentary vision. In his Quartets, he returns to the same persons again and again over the years. Parents become grandparents. A young couple with an infant become in time a tired old woman alone. The photos are often heartbreaking records of how poverty plus years can break up couples and homes, steal your health, ruin your looks, and grind down hope.

Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal.

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