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Joe Schwartz died Wednesday

Posted: Thursday, Mar 14th, 2013

Heather Young/Atascadero News • Joe Schwartz with his daughter, Paula Motlo of Atascadero, with Schwartz’s work hung on the walls of Atascadero City Hall, during the reception honoring him for his accomplishments as a photographer and humanitarian and for turning 100 the same year that the city does.

ATASCADERO — World famous photographer and Atascadero resident Joe Schwartz died of natural causes on Wednesday at about 5 a.m. He was 99.

“I saw him on Sunday, and he looked as peaceful and serene as a guy could look,” said longtime friend and fellow photographer Bill Jennings. “He seemed to be in a very good place. He didn’t show signs of stress or pain. He looked like a guy with a good life.”

Schwartz and the city of Atascadero both celebrated 100th birthdays last month at a grand reception at Atascadero City Hall. Audrey Banks organized the event and worked very closely with Schwartz and his family. Schwartz’s daughter, Paula Motto, also lives in Atascadero.

“How he affected Atascadero was shown when we had the reception for him,” Banks said. “We had over 300 people come to honor him. That turnout to celebrate him shows, I think, how he’s impacted people. They wanted the chance to meet him and see his work.”

Schwartz was born in Brooklyn, N.Y, in 1913. He served in the Marines during World War II as a combat photographer. In the 1930s, he joined the Photo League along with other notable photographers such as Eugene Smith and Dorthea Lange.

Schwartz’s work will be part of the first permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. In the 1930s and 1940s, he documented the have-nots in his neighborhood. He continued to photograph the have-nots as well the “greats” for a total of 70 years.

Schwartz’ work is currently on display at Olive Tree Fine Art, and copies of his book, “Poems I’ve Never Written,” are on sale there as well.

Schwartz would have turned 100 on July 6, two days after the last payment for the property that became Atascadero was made.

No memorial had been announced at press time.

For more information on Schwartz, go to To see the body of his work, pick up “Poems I’ve Never Written.”

For the complete article see the 03-15-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-15-2013 paper.

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