Skirball Cultural Center presents
Three Decades of Folk Photography by Joe Schwartz
December 1, 2005–April 2, 2006
Free general admission to this exhibition

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90049 (Exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405)
(310) 440-4500, fax (310) 440-4595
Contact: Mia Cariño (310) 440-4544
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(l.) Joe Schwartz, “A Minute for the Funnies”, Venice, 1960s.
(r.) Joe Schwartz, “Acting Out”, East Los Angeles, 1960s.

LOS ANGELES—L.A. Unstaged: Three Decades of Folk Photography by Joe Schwartz, an exhibition of more than 40 black-and-white photographs by Joe Schwartz (b. 1913), opened at the Skirball Cultural Center on December 1, 2005, and will remain on view through April 2, 2006. The works candidly reveal the urban soul of Los Angeles from the 1950s through the 1970s, depicting the everyday lives of ordinary people wherever Schwartz, a self-termed “folk photographer,” encountered them—at bus stops, beaches, sidewalks and playgrounds. L.A. Unstaged, which marks the first time Schwartz’s work has been the subject of a museum exhibition, will be on view at the Skirball’s Ruby Gallery; Ruby Gallery exhibitions are always free to the public. It is presented as part of the Skirball’s Our California series, exploring the changing cultural, social and civic forces that have shaped California, and the First Show initiative, which debuts the work of unknown artists.

In the photographs on view, as in all of his work, Schwartz has focused on the people he has called “urban have-nots”—the poor, marginalized and oppressed members of the city’s multicultural communities. However, rather than call attention to the plight of this underprivileged class, he has emphasized the intrinsic human dignity of each of his subjects.

It was Schwartz’s early experiences with poverty and discrimination that sparked his lifelong commitment to social justice and reform and inspired him to develop what he would later refer to as “folk photography.” Born in New York in 1913, he grew up in the Kingsboro housing project. He was schooled in photography on the streets of Depression-era Brooklyn and captured what was most familiar to him: children of different races playing on the sidewalks of the housing project. Schwartz shot his work from the perspective of the economically dispossessed “folks” who would figure prominently in his life’s work. Schwartz explains, “Folk photography has its roots in the idea of going back into various neighborhoods where I grew up to capture the people and themes that were close to me.”

Schwartz’s sensitivity to intolerance was heightened when his family relocated to Los Angeles. As a Jew and a New Yorker, Schwartz was ostracized by many of his Southern California schoolmates. This further moved him to identify with other “outsiders” and minorities and to explore how racially distinct communities come together to make up the city’s urban landscape.

As a young man, in the mid-1930s, Schwartz discovered the power of photography to increase public awareness of economic inequities. Through his participation in the newly formed Photo League—a group of influential photographers that included Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Weegee and Alfred Eisenstadt—Schwartz sought to establish an innovative style of socially-minded documentary photography. This compassionate approach to his subjects has been the hallmark of Schwartz’s career as an artist. His poignant photographs caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers and magazines which occasionally featured Schwartz’s images.

Schwartz, now 92, lives in Atascadero, California.

Visiting the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405). Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12–5 p.m., Thursday until 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Monday. Gallery admission prices: $8 General, $6 Seniors. Free for Skirball Members, Students and Children under 12. Admission to L.A. Unstaged is free to the public. Admission to all exhibitions is free to the public on Thursday. Parking is free. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit
The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music and more.

About the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.

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