Rotkin was a respected and prolific documentary photographer, widely published during the golden age of pictorial magazines, as well as in corporate publications. The works that brought Rotkin the greatest renown, however, were his pioneering aerial photography collections, Europe: An Aerial Close-Up (1958) and The U.S.A.: An Aerial Close-Up (1962, 1968). These books captured the popular imagination at the time, thrilling the public with novel perspectives of familiar places and the beauty of both the natural and the man-made environment. Rotkin can be seen as one of the heirs to the 19th- and early 20th-century tradition of bird’s-eye views of American towns drawn by itinerant artists in the pre-aviation era and often made into prints. Of course, the earlier artists’ work, though convincingly drawn and detailed, were typically imaginative projections based on their studies of the town from the ground. These became obsolete with the advent of the airplane and helicopter, which offered actual bird’s-eye views, along with cameras that could take pictures at split-second shutter speeds. Rotkin was one of the early pioneers of the new medium and technique. His work remains significant as an early example of aerial photography with an artistic purpose, and also as historical documents of places that in many cases have significantly changed in the ensuing decades.
Chad, Barry L. “Bridging the Urban Landscape. The Photographers: Roy E. Stryker.” Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. 14 May 2003. http://www.clpgh.org/exhibit/photog14.html (8 February 2006).
Reese, Kay and Leipzig, Mimi. “An Interview with Charlie Rotkin.” 1992. Online at American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). 7 March 2005. http://www.asmp.org/60th/interview_charlie_rotkin.php (6 February 2006).
Rotkin, Charles E. Europe: An Aerial Close-Up. Philadelphia and New York: J.P. Lippincott, 1958.
Rotkin, Charles E. The U.S.A.: An Aerial Close-Up. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1968.