Born in New York City in 1909, Rogovin moved to Buffalo in 1938 to practice as an optometrist. He married Anne Setters in 1942, the same year he bought his first camera and was drafted into the U.S. Army. After returning from the war, he organized an optometrists' union in Buffalo and served as a librarian in the city's Communist Party. In 1957, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
"Rogovin, named as top red in Buffalo, balks at nearly all queries," read the headline the next day in the hometown Buffalo Evening News.
With his optometry business sliced in half because of negative publicity, Rogovin turned to photography - although he never studied it formally.
"The rich have their photographers," Rogovin often said. "I photograph the forgotten ones."