Artist’s Spotlight: the Photographic Legacy of Fred Rosenberg
“How do people remember someone they care for?”, asked the late photographer Fred Rosenberg…
“An old photo, a trophy, maybe some military honors? Well, I look at things in a different light… My work is personal, has been circulated in limited venues and certainly hasn’t achieved the cachet of the “great ones”, but my photography defines me and my life… And vanity notwithstanding, that’s what I want my legacy to be.”
Indeed, there is something empowering about choosing your own legacy. Rosenberg always knew that he wanted to be remembered through his life’s work; an expansive collection of photographs shot over six decades- starting from the day he received his first Leica “C” Model in his early twenties, and continuing on to document the ever-changing landscapes of New York City, New Jersey and beyond through the political and cultural whirlwinds of the 1960’s and 70’s, and up until his final days. Highlights of his decades-long career include…
“In 1975, I was taking night courses at the New School of Social Research, and every evening after class I photographed Times Square and downtown NYC. The city was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the streets were mean; with the homeless and addicted sleeping anywhere and everywhere, streets littered with filth, and Times Square “boasting” all-night sex movies, strip clubs and rampant crime. I spent three months photographing the dark recesses of NYC in the 70’s, and the New York Historical Society [has since] included 15 of my images in its’ permanent collection.”
“As a long-time family friend, I got to meet Allen Ginsberg on many occasions. One evening, he read his poem, “Kaddish” at a local YMHA, after which he and our little group of friends and family gathered to chat over coffee. He was the center of attention, and I was able to photograph him with one incandescent bulb as my lighting. Four of these images are now held in the permanent collection of the New Jersey Jewish Historical Society.”
“I did a photo essay depicting the ravages of a desecrated New Jersey cemetery, and my photos led directly to its clean-up and replacement of the grave markers. The photos were awarded a top prize in a nationwide contest related to “The Jewish Experience in America”, and ten of my images were included in a coffee table book entitled, “Behold a Great Image.”Now the same ten photos are permanently on display in the Newark Museum.”
Over the years, photography has meant many things to Mr. Rosenberg, and he has used his camera as a window through which to understand the many faces of the world. He has trained his lens on the likes of celebrities as big as JFK, and anonymous passers-by on a dark NYC night. His work has reached the collections of museums and historical societies, and the pages of newspapers and magazines. His photographs have served as the educational centerpieces of University lectures, and even as captivating decor on the walls of many a studio D home staging project…
Most importantly perhaps, they have been held in the hands of his children and grandchildren (studio D‘s own Jane Saidenberg is one such lucky daughter), where he hopes they will remain for generations to come.
In a 2017 interview, Rosenberg explains his sentiments on the matter perfectly; “My images are records, archives, of a look at what things were in another time, and I want my kids, grandkids – and their progeny – to visualize the existence of people and places other than those of their own experience,” he reflects. “The images – good and bad – are irreplaceable.”
Thanks for all the images + inspiration Fred!