Joe Schwartz (1913-2013) was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Growing up in the hardscrabble neighborhoods of the city, he was keenly aware of the intense difficulties facing America's urban poor and in the 1930s, became politically active and joined the The Photo League of New York, teaching workshops alongside Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith and Sid Grossman. During this time he began photographing everyday life on the streets of his childhood, focusing on the positive aspects of community life that transcended racial divides, especially the street “folk” games of children. 

 

Joseph Schwartz grew up in the Brooklyn slums and housing projects with his parents, Rose Mandel and Samuel Schwartz, who were immigrants from Romania and Poland. He started experimenting with an inexpensive camera--a Voigtlander Superb--in high school and soon after became an activist, engaged in street politics of the "have-nots". In 1939 he married modern dancer Anne Palley and they had two children, Carl and Paula. Schwartz served in the 5th Division Marine Corps during WWII and was stationed on Iwo Jima from D-day until the end of the campaign as a combat photographer. He was also on the staff of Leatherneck Magazine and received several accolades for his war photography. Schwartz was honorably discharged from San Leandro hospital due to combat fatigue. Following the war, he attended Fred Archer's School of Photography on the G.I. Bill, graduating in 1953. Schwartz eventually moved to the Los Angeles area where he continued to photograph on the streets and make his living as a lithographer. 

 

Joe Schwartz's photographic work has been shown in the touring exhibition "The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951", and in several other important museums and galleries including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Canada. His photographs are in the collections of the Getty Museum of Los Angeles and the Smithsonian InstitutionSchwartz's photos will be displayed at theSmithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in 2016 in Washington, D.C.