Prominent photography collector and dealer Charles Schwartz passed away peacefully at his home in Manhattan on January 24, 2019 at the age of 80. Charles grew up in Jamaica, Queens. His father and uncle co-founded the Elmhurst Dairy, which Charles ran for many years. But a love of photography was central to his life from an early age. Charles began collecting daguerreotypes when he was in college at Cornell, and over time he built a significant and very unique photography collection with special interests in 19th century Japanese photography, Civil War photographs, African American photography, dairy images, as well as 20th century masters.
Always a visionary, Charles simultaneously pursued his passion for art and photography while expanding the family dairy business. He developed Whitney Yogurt, a European style yogurt that was unknown in the US market at the time. He also co-founded one of the first art galleries in SoHo, “Let There Be Neon,” in 1972 with neon artist Rudi Stern.
After retiring from the family business in 1987, Charles continued to innovate. He worked with his daughter, Cynthia Schwartz Major, and her former husband David Major to create Vermont Shepherd Cheese, which became a seminal part of the burgeoning artisanal cheese industry. And, he turned his passion for photography into a new business as a photography dealer, which he pursued while continuing to build his personal photo collection. Charles was also an avid practitioner of photography. He became fascinated with applying 19th-century techniques to contemporary photography. To this end, he had a camera obscura built on the roof of his Upper East Side apartment building, and it remains one of the few private devices of its kind in the world.
Charles was a founding board member of the Queens Museum, helping them to establish their photography collection. He was also a founding member of the Daguerreian Society and a longtime member of AIPAD (Association of Photography Art Dealers). Together with Shawn Wilson, Charles published “Separate But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson,” a celebration of life in a thriving black community in Greenville, MS from the 1950s through the ‘70s. Anderson’s archive is now part of the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
Charles is survived by his wife, painter Nancy Drosd, his daughter Cynthia Schwartz Major and his son Jeffrey Schwartz, four grandchildren, and his sister, Carole S. Hyatt.
To view a few of Charles’ personal collections and to see his own Light Reclaimed photographs, please visit: http://www.charles-schwartz.com/.