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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Joe Schwartz

Born: Joseph Schwartz 
Dates:  1913, 6 July - 2013, Aprl
Born:  US, NY, Brooklyn
Active:  US
American contemporary documentary photographer concerned with social issues. 
Artist statement: 
"Can't we all get along?" asked Rodney King. The answer is that we can. I have lived and photographed that answer for almost 72 years. From the "housing projects" in Brooklyn, to the activism of the Photo League, to combat photography in World War II, to the struggles of the famous and non-famous for equal rights, to the daily lives of folks in our world, to the faces of children, my camera shows people of all colors and backgrounds weaving their lives together into a tapestry of friendship and mutual support.
The children prove it: racism and bigotry are not innate. Adults can retain this awareness when not poisoned with the divisiveness sown by those who think the perpetuation of prejudice and injustice serve their self-interest.
My photography dissolves stereotypes. It reveals have-nots with innate nobility, and famous people letting their hair down with friends. Children don't have to be dismissed as "cute." They can be revealed as complex and distinctive human beings worthy of respect and attentiveness as well as love.
The heroism of underpaid working people who struggle to support their families, the wisdom of grandparents, and the everyday neighborliness of regular folks are the real news, the real foundation we can build on, despite the media emphasis on conflict and depravity. We need to discover our real heritage as builders of communities, weavers of a fabric of caring.
Recently, I was able to accomplish a lifelong dream: to assemble the book Folk Photography: Poems I've Never Written, featuring some of my best work from seven decades from the 1930's through the 1990's. It is my hope that my work will reach wider distribution, I will accept on behalf of today's children, the beautiful children of all colors, for whom my images can be encouragement that they have the power, and the history behind them, to grow a world in which bigotry and exploitation are finally seen as the obsolete superstitions of a less enlightened age, and that we can indeed all get along.
Joe Schwartz (October 2006)

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Joe Schwartz 
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Joe Schwartz

Biography and Publications
My parents, Rose Mandel from Poland and Samuel Schwartz from Romania, emigrated to and met in New York.
Joseph, (that's me) born July 6, 1913 in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, on the top floor of a wooden tenement house owned by Uncle Benny at 47 Humboldt Street, corner Varet.
I attended P.S. 129 in Brooklyn and finished grammar school called Monte Vista School in Highland Park, Los Angeles. 1928 -1 year at Franklin High School in Highland Park, Calif.
1929-1933 attended Alexander Hamilton High School., a boy's commercial school in Brooklyn, N. Y. Among other subjects, commercial art was the one I concentrated on. Experimented with cheap camera to gather ideas and reference materials for art.
1933 Rode the rods, box cars, the blinds of passenger trains across country to California and back working as a deckboy on a Richfield oil tanker. Saw vets and their families going East as I was going West (Bonus march). Gained worldly education.
1933-1936 Soon after, became activist, engaged in street politics, became obsessed with proving that “have nots”, especially among ethnic people, possessed high values. Focused photography on people of dignity in that class. Helped formulate petitions and participated in demonstrations to pressure politicians to favor housing projects and playgrounds for the poor and to remind them of the need for jobs for the unemployed.
1934 Short stay at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, taught me fundamentals in art composition. No dough -no higher schooling.
1936 First $8.00 a week job with Haloid Paper Co. then to a $12.00 a week job learning lithography as a tuscher-joined union - NRA got me $16.00 a week.
1936-38 Friend Dave Robbins, member and instructor at the Photo League and freelance magazine photographer, led me to Photo League. Sid Grossman was president.
1938-48 Worked in DeVinne Browne Corp. Polygraphic Co.. National Litho Co. - Kipe Offset Co. - last job in New York City with a trade shop owned by Mr. Knudsen. Through him I met his friend Edward Steichen.
1939 Had a workshop for a short time on New York City's ethnic groups - Photo League.
1939 Married modem dancer, Anne Paley (Jane Dudley's New Dance Group). Lived on St. Marks Ave, now part of Soho Village, N. Y. City.
1941 Worked in Litho department at Raritan Arsenal, New Jersey.
1943 Joined Marine Corps on staff of Leatherneck Magazine. Transferred from Washington D.C. as combat photographer -5th Marine Div. Served in war on Iwo Jima from D-Day till end of campaign. Shipped back to Hawaii; a WW II casualty. Met Gene Smith while on the island, worked with him on assignment he had to fulfill for "Life". He was the Photo League's last president before WW II.
1945 Bell Telephone full page ads in several magazines-used war photo of marine communicating-pleading for support from ships offshore of Iwo.
1945 Iwo Jima edition of 5th Division "Spearhead" magazine.
1945 Weekly publication of International Events used Iwo photo called "Sweet Dreams".
1946 Honorably discharged from San Leandro hospital. Moved in with family in Kingsboro Housing Project, Brooklyn.
1946-49 Continued as social activist. Elected president of tenant's union and edited project news periodical called the "New Look".
1946 U.S. Camera Annual best pictures of the year 1945 - a double full page spread and another photo single full page spread.
1947 Official photographer for Disabled American Veterans national newspaper, Cincinnati, Ohio. Picture editor VET Magazine - Cincinnati, Ohio.
1948 Official photographer - Litho Union Journal.
1948 Series on Wallace on War Campaign - Attended 3rd National Convention.
1949 Freelance work for Clem Young - N.Y. Times (Babe Didrikson Story, etc.).
1950 Publicity work for Pat Willard, jazz musician's publicist/writer of several stories for Ebony magazine.
1952-3 Schooled and graduated at Fred Archer's School of Photography (Color Photography) on the G.I. bill. Lived in El Sereno housing project.
1960s Worked for Western Litho. Co. - for Clement's - Pacific Press - and during the years tried my own business called Magic Color into the 70's. Three years in 60's spent in Synanon House as a square resident and worked with photographic section of that organization.
1971 Photographic Quarterly, Los Angeles, Calif., 10 page photos and article "Joe Schwartz on Relevance".
1974 "Seeking It Lovingly” 7 photos for book of verse by minister James W. Angell.
1975 KPFK FOLIO - covers and inside pages for a Los Angeles public supported radio station.
1977 "Heretic" autobiography - Rev. Stephen H. Fritchman I 1st Unitarian Church of L.A.
1977 Independent Publishing Fund of the Americas, a literary newsletter - two full page spreads and article “Joe Schwartz, People's Photographer”.
1980 Claremont, Ca. newspaper, "Courier" - 2 page tabloid spread "Photographic Folklore," by Julie Simon.
1980s Catalogue - "The Photo League” for exhibits curated by Anne W. Tucker of Houston Museum of Art. Texas.
1985 Catalogue "The Photo League” Howard Greenberg/Photofind Gallery, New York.
1988 Aperture magazine "Story of The Photo League” full page spread.
1989 Soft cover book "Jacob Lawrence, Paintings and Sculpture” 4 full page spreads.
1990 Still working on my book titled "Folk Photography - Poems I've Never Written."
2000 Set up a digital studio in my home and published my book "Folk Photography - Poems I've Never Written."

2007 Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Santa Barbara, California
2006 Steynberg Gallery - San Luis Obispo, California
2005 Indiana Historical Society - Indianapolis, Indiana
2005 Skirball Musem of Art - Los Angeles, California
2005 San Luis Obispo County Art Center - San Luis Obispo, California
2004 University Concourse Gallery, University of Tennesse - Knoxville, Tennesse
2004 Public Library of Charlotte, Mecklenberg County - Charlotte, North Carolina
2004 Missouri Historical Society - St Louis, Missouri
2004 Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Birmingham, Alabama
2004 Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida - Coral Gables, Florida
2004 San Francisco Photo Show - San Francisco, California
2003 Louisiana State University Union Art Gallery - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2002 Picker Gallery at Colgate University - Hamilton, New York
2002 Cohen Gallery - Los Angeles, California
2002 Shapiro Gallery - San Francisco, California
2001 Daiter Gallery - Chicago, Illinois
1996 Cohen Gallery - Los Angeles, California
1996 Karpeleles Museum - Santa Barbara, California
1995 Pepperdine University - Malabu, California
1994 One Man Show - Titled “Poems I’ve Never Written” - Wadsworth Atheneum - Celebrating Black History Month. Hartford, CT
1994 One Man Show - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA
1994 Amistad Museum - Mystic Seaport, Connecticut
1993 11th Annual Artists Salute to Black History Month - Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza - L.A., CA
1990 “Photo League-Exhibit” Boston College Art Gallery -Group showing in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
1990 “Photo League” Group show at Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, N.Y.
1989 Annual Art Benefit Dinner & Auction - Painters and Photographers. Museum of African American Art
1989 “Joe Schwartz. Peoples' Photographer” celebrating Black History Month in Atascadero, Calif. (Library)
1988 “Time of Your Life” - Los Angeles Convention Center
1987 “The Photo League. 1936-1951” Gallery Association of New York State -2 year tour thru New York State
1986 “The Peoples' Photographer” - Museum of African American Art - L.A.
1983 Permanent Exhibit - “Westside Independent Services For The Elderly” Santa Monica, California
1980 The Galarie - Combo - Painter and Photographer -“Folk Art”, Venice, Ca.
1980 Leigh Yeakey Woodsen Museum of Art - “Photographic Crossroads: The Photo League” group show
1980 “Folk Photographer. Joe Schwartz” Clark Humanities Museum -Scripps College, Claremont, California
1979 University of Iowa Museum of Art - “Photo League” group show
1978 “Photographic Crossroads: The Photo League” - Group show National Gallery of Canada
1978 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - “Photographic Crossroads: The Photo League” , Group show in Houston. Texas
1977 “Artistic Reflections on Black History” sponsored by Los Angeles High School Art Dept.. Los Angeles, Calif.
1976 “I Remember” presented by Black Studies Center Claremont College, Clark Humanities Museum, Claremont, Calif.
1976 “I Remember” - One Man Show. The Gallery. Los Angeles, Calif.
1972 “For Sale” benefit for Southern Conference Educational Fund.
1971 “Group Arts Show” Westwood Art Association, Calif.
1970 “Photography - As Eye See It”, Westside Jewish Community Center, L.A.
1970s "One Man Show, Joe Schwartz” Fullerton College. Anaheim. Calif.
1967 “The Canvas And The Camera” 2 painters - 2 photographers, Downey Museum of Art - Downey, Calif.
1965 “1 -2 -3 -For The Show” Painter, Sculptor and Photographer -Los Angeles Museum of Art - Barnsdall Park.
1964 Veterans Hospital - Brentwood, California “Retro”.
1963 Synanon House "Love Story of a Photographer", Santa Monica, Calif.
1960s Santa Monica High School, "I Remember” - Retrospective
1950s Douglas Aircraft - National Group Exhibit. Awarded lst place by Lionel Barrymore, judge
1950s "Photo Retrospective, Joe Schwartz" lst Unitarian Church, Los Angeles, Calif. Dr. Steve Fritchman, minister
1950s Los Angeles Photo League - Helped organize Group Showing and Critique by Weegee
1948 Kingsboro Housing Project - "Community League of Kingsboro Activities", Brooklyn, N.Y.
1948 1 day exhibit "Fight for Playgrounds" Harlem school basketball court
1939-40 Photo League group showing and critique.
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