Portraits in Steel

Portraits in Steel

by Michael Frisch
     
 

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This powerful book documents--in images and words--the unsettling experience of a dozen men and women workers who lost their jobs in the steel mills of Buffalo, New York, and had to fashion new lives for themselves. A stunning collection of revealing...See more details below

Overview

This powerful book documents--in images and words--the unsettling experience of a dozen men and women workers who lost their jobs in the steel mills of Buffalo, New York, and had to fashion new lives for themselves. A stunning collection of revealing...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Frisch ( A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft and Meaning of Oral and Public History ) and documentary photographer Rogovin here collaborate on a mid-1980s portrait of the lives of 12 former steelworkers, male and female, in Buffalo, N.Y. PW saw only a fraction of the black-and-white photographs but these are illuminating examples of what Frisch calls ``a presentation of self.'' Frisch's introduction thoughtfully describes Buffalo through deindustrialization and tentative revival. His interviews are earnest, detailed and sometimes redundant. The workers describe their work in steel, from running the furnaces to pouring molten steel, their family life and how they have coped with adversity. Some have made a successful transition while others struggle: one man is on welfare; another guards the empty steel plant where he once worked. Most striking are the sometimes xenophobic, often uninformed but heartfelt responses workers give to Frisch's very leading questions about the decline of the economy: they presage the large numbers of voters who supported Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential race. (May)
Booknews
In the late 1970s, Rogovin photographed a series of portraits of Buffalo, New York steelworkers; and in the mid-1980s, after the Buffalo steel industry had collapsed, he took follow-up portraits of workers who had lost their jobs. The second time he was joined by Frisch who recorded interviews with the workers and their families. The collaboration has produced an interesting and respectful documentary--appreciative of the fine qualities of the subjects. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Roland Wulbert
Rogovin's photographs of Buffalo iron and steel workers compare well in every way to "Migrant Mother"--Dorothea Lange's famous image of a Depression-era woman aged beyond her years by hard times. His political and aesthetic objectives and his respect for his subjects duplicate Lange's. But his work, much closer to snapshots, is potentially more unsettling than the heroic depictions of the Farm Security Administration photographers. Rogovin introduced Frisch to the Buffalo families he has photographed for three decades, and Frisch set out to write complementary oral histories. Those reveal interpersonal relations as well as the respondents' experiences of blue-collar life in one of the nation's foremost blue-collar cities. Working in the late 1970s, Frisch caught his subjects during the precipitous decline of heavy industry Buffalo shared with the rest of the U.S. Held by more than 50 percent of Buffalo's 1950s labor force, manufacturing jobs dwindled so that less than 20 percent had them in the 1980s. While "Portraits in Steel" commemorates working-class families, it also documents a working-class era receding into history. It is not only about inequality; it is also, like philosophy (according to Plato), about death.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801422539
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
02/29/2000
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
9.06(w) x 10.63(h) x (d)

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