OB’s Photographer Extraordinaire Passes — Steve Rowell

by on July 26, 2023 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

Family Plans Celebration of Life August 13

Sadly, we mark the passing of one of Ocean Beach’s true photographer extraordinaires – Steve Rowell.

His family is planning a Celebration of Life in Robb Field on August 13, 4 to 6pm.

Steve Rowell’s “Labor Day Riot” 1968 on Long Branch Ave.

Steve made a name for himself early on with his series of black and white photos of Ocean Beach back in the late 1960s and early 70s. He captured the gritty lifestyles and streetscapes of San Diego’s Haight-Ashbury. He became one of the main photographers of the OB Historical Society.  And judge for the group’s annual photo contest. In 2018, Steve joined Cliff Beck and Joe Ewing as “Three of OB’s Top Photographers” as judges.


At one point, Steve and Noah Tafolla — a local TV celeb — collaborated in publishing Steve’s black and white OB photos – OB in the 60’s — and it became quite a hit.

Steve and Noah Tafolla promoting their book during OB’s Farmers Market.

Steve with his great grand-daughter, Ashley and her mother. From facebook

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Blavatt July 26, 2023 at 11:55 am

I adored Steve for his talent, friendship, knowledge, and kindness. He loved life… animals, especially birds, O.B., and his many friends. He knew our local history and made history, recording it through his photos and stories. The last time I saw Steve, he won an award that was well deserved. He grabbed my hand at the event and held it for a long time. I will never forget
that night and keep him in my heart forever. Steve is always going to be a part of O.B. History.


Jon July 26, 2023 at 12:21 pm

I’m so sad to hear the news of Steve’s passing. I was fortunate to meet Steve a little over 14 years ago at Kaiser hospital out in Mission Gorge. We were both trying to quit smoking cigarettes and sat next to each other in a class. We found out we both lived in and loved OB and we stayed in touch after our experience while keeping tabs on each other to make sure we stayed tobacco free! I recall his inspiration being his daughter and granddaughter, and mine was my soon-to-be wife. He was also an inspiration to me and I loved seeing him riding his bike and taking photos, looking healthy after so many years of smoking. Neither of us started up again.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. Thanks for all the memories and great photos Steve!


Tracy Fish July 26, 2023 at 5:28 pm

I’m so sorry to hear of Steve Rowell’s passing! He had such love for O.B and had such a great eye for photography. His older photo’s of Ocean Beach are legendary and captured a time we will never see again, and we have him to thank for those images. My heart goes out to his family and all those who loved him!


Ron May July 27, 2023 at 12:59 am

I am very sorry to learn of Steve’s passing. He began documenting OB after my family relocated to PB in 1963, though we retained property in the area for a decade more. When I spoke to the OB Historical Society, Steve was among the first people to talk to me and compare memories. We talked more when I attended the annual OB Historical Society parties. His photography was pure OB magic and it is my hope he never will be forgotten.


Frank Gormlie July 27, 2023 at 12:22 pm

Steve is survived by his four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


OB Mercy July 29, 2023 at 7:43 am

Steve and I grumbled together over our knee replacements. I was shocked when he told me he didn’t go to physical therapy for it. I said that’s how you get the flexibility in your knee back! He said at least I can still ride my bike! His photos were iconic and really record an important era in OB’s history. You will be very much missed Steve.


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