Author Q&A: Howard Schatz’s Books Capture 1,100 Best Images out of 4 Million

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All photos credited to Howard Schatz

 

You have not truly seen the world until you have witnessed the illuminating photography of Howard Schatz.

The internationally critically-acclaimed, award-winning photographer is one of the most prolific artists of his time. His new two-book set, Schatz Images: 25 Years, (Glitterati, June 2015) captures breathtaking images that will fascinate those who love original, cutting-edge photographs.

Perhaps Vanity Editor-in-Chief said it best:

“Howard Schatz is so versatile that this volume at times seems like the work of a dozen photographers, Weegee, Avedon, Penn, Beaton, Newton, and Goude, among them. He has affection for his subjects—athletes, dancers, models, actors, pregnant moms, and interesting nobodies—and it shows in every remarkable image. Sometimes funny, often dramatic, he is a master both of the quiet portrait and the explosive surprise.”

Schatz_Anthology_2_Final_Page_200Schatz’s work ranges from dance, underwater studies, athletes, fashion and beauty, actors, models and their moms, motion studies, botanical, and pregnancy to “liquid light” studies.

His work has been published in 20 books and exhibited in numerous galleries and museum exhibitions worldwide and is contained in innumerable private collections. His images are regularly featured in illustrious publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Time, Sport Illustrated, Vogue, GQ, and The New Yorker. Schatz has worked with such prominent clients as Ralph Lauren, Escada, Sergio, Nike, Reebok, Sony, and Mercedes-Benz, and he’s won nearly every award in his field.

Prior to becoming a photographer as he neared age 50, the scientist-turned-artist was an internationally renowned ophthalmologist and Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco.

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The following is a Q and A with the legendary, masterful photographer:

MEDIA CONNECT: The pair of books that make up the retrospective cover an array of topics.  Which subject matter proved to be the most challenging but rewarding to shoot?

Howard Schatz: Every project I did was an exploration, a treasure hunt. I photograph to surprise and delight myself. I am looking for wonder. I worked creatively to capture something special in every subject. Finding something I had never seen before was my bar, the metric by which I would judge my work. The hard work we put into the creative process is a marvelous journey that brings great satisfaction and joy.

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MC: To what do you attribute your success with creating amazing images that capture the human spirit, a feeling, or a moment?

HS: I am interested in people, motion, and the human body; in dance, sports, as well as the veracity of a great face. I think my curiosity and passion to find things I hadn’t seen before informed the finding and making of these images.

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MC: A large number of famous actors and award-winning actresses came to your studio and you were able to direct them in a one-on-one improvisation, allowing them to create a whole range of characters for your camera. How did Michael Douglas, Colin Firth, Jane Lynch, and Sissy Spacek, among a hundred others, come to participate in this project? 

HS: I initially did an interview with each actor about ideas and creativity. The long interview allowed each actor to become comfortable with me as a director, so that when we worked on the character improvisations, they really gave it their all. I asked each actor to use his/her imagination –as well as his/her bodies and voice — to develop each character. They then worked hard, improvisationally and extemporaneously to make images that were fantastic.

 

MC: Do you set out to capture iconic images on every shoot? What is it that you strive to achieve?

HS: It is a treasure hunt. I set up my studio in such a way that I am open to anything that happens.  There is no ultra-control of things, I let ideas flow freely, coming in and out – I’m willing to try anything. This is the creative process; it is not a preconceived notion that I am trying to get but rather an idea I wish to explore. I talk about the creative tree: one climbs the tree and sometimes goes out on a branch that seems promising, but it cracks and one falls to the ground. But the grass is soft, so one gets right back up on the tree trunk and finds another branch.  Occasionally, there is a branch with many pieces of fruit to pick. We look for these gold veins, we look for these things that happen in the studio that seem to yield magic and wonder and surprise and rapture.

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MC: Black and white or color? How do you know when to use which and for what effect?

HS: Black-and-white leaves more to the imagination than color. Color is more literal. Nowadays we shoot everything in color and if I feel an image would be stronger in black-and-white, I simply convert it in post-production. Today, technology allows anyone to make a pretty good picture. But to make a picture that’s spectacular, rare, unique, magnificent, fantastic and long-lasting is extremely difficult and takes great effort, generally a fair amount of experience, certainly tremendously hard work and a great amount of luck.

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MC: You left behind a successful career as a world-renowned retina specialist to turn your eye towards photography. In either role, were you seeking to heal us, to help us to see things in a better way?

HS: In medicine it is important to get it exactly right, but in art it’s often about making mistakes. The two are very different. In medicine, it’s important not to take chances, not to get wild and creative; but in art it is very important to take chances and to go into the unknown. Medicine has taught me a great deal.  I’ve learned to make strangers comfortable as I did with my patients. Medicine taught me to study things scientifically, which I applied when learning various technical challenges in the studio. The two seem to overlap in many ways, but they are mostly extremely different.

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Related: Author Q&A: Embedded Photographer-turned-author Shares his Experience in Afghanistan

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