Underwater Study #980, Shawnee Free Jones,
photographed in Fairfax, CA, September 1995
Beauty Study #1242, Rebecca, photographed in New York City, May 2012
Corps de Ballet, photographed in Sherman, CT, July 2005
Underwater Study #2481, Francesca Tedeschi,
photographed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in Sherman, CT, August 2004
Underwater Study #3200, Jennifer Kulz-Smith,
photographed for MGM Grand Spa in Fairfax, CA, August 1998
Award-winning photographer Howard Schatz has produced some of the most unusual, stunning, dazzling images created over the past quarter-century—but the camera was not his first love. For 23 years, Schatz was an internationally respected retina specialist, researcher, medical textbook writer, and Clinical Professor at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco. Born in Chicago, he moved to San Francisco after completing his medical and surgical retina fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
In 1987, Schatz began taking photographs seriously, devoting one full day a week to photography. He purchased professional camera equipment and strobe lights and initially focused on making beautiful portraits. His commercial work grew and his photographic studies of newborns, dancers, and his ground-breaking underwater imagery were published in books to great acclaim. By 1995, at the suggestion of his wife, Beverly Ornstein, he took a one-year sabbatical from medicine. The physician-turned-artist moved to a studio in SoHo in New York City.
With an archive that includes photographs of subjects including Sissy Spacek, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Pele, David Beckham, Muhammed Ali, Serena Williams, George Steinbrenner, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, the wealth and breadth of Schatz’ oeuvre is remarkable. In celebration of his life in photography, Schatz has just released his twenty-first book, Schatz Images: 25 Years (Glitterati Incorporated), a luxurious, two-book boxed set. Each of the two volumes is 12x12 inches, and together contains a total of 832 pages and 1083 original photographs, selected from 32 personal and professional projects as diverse as the Underwater Studies, BodyKnots, and Liquid Light Studies.
As Graydon Carter, Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair, observes, “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.”
A solo exhibition of work will be on display as part of IMAGES 2015 at the Fairfield Museum and History Center, CT, through July 19, 2015. Schatz speaks with The Chic about his love of photography. He recalls, “I have always loved making pictures. I have had a camera since my early 20s and carried it everywhere making photographs of everything I saw.
“Twenty-five years ago, when my second daughter graduated high school and was off to college, I felt that I could devote one weekend day every week to learning everything about photography and making pictures. I studied very hard, went to galleries and museums, bought magazines and books of photography, and bought used studio equipment including strobe lights, a medium format camera, etc. I set about to learn how to make black-and-white portraits and started a project that became a book as well as a museum and gallery show called Gifted Woman. I photographed women who were famous because of their contributions to humanity rather than how they looked. There were many very famous women who sat for me and the images were eventually placed on the walls of the Oakland Museum for a major museum show.
“My second project was to learn how to make portraits in color and did a project on redheads. Project after project followed. I am interested in many things, and am willing to explore ideas. When I come across a subject of interest I study everything I can to learn what has been done before so that I do not repeat the work of others. I then set upon an intense and passionate exploration. For me, the joy is in the journey, in the multiple discoveries, in seeing things that I never knew existed before.
“The other factor is that we have a 5000 square-foot live workspace in Soho. This space serves as my research laboratory. If I see an image that interests me, that is different and creative, I can use all my studio facilities to discover, technically, how the image was done. I then have a tool that I can use to make my own images. In this way I have learned to make any kind of photograph no matter how technically complicated.
“For me making photographs is not about having my camera and waiting for the right moment to photograph what is out in the world. I want to make things up to photograph. I want to develop ideas in my studio that surprise and delight me. I want to be astonished and amazed. I want to feel wonder and rapture. And so whatever the current project, I work hard and prepare and use my imagination in order to create something that I haven't seen before. I remain dissatisfied when the photographs are just well done or ‘nice.’ I push myself to find magic.
“When Marta Hallett of Glitterati asked me to compile my best images for a complete retrospective, at first I did not want to do it. I do not want to look back at things I had done. I want to look forward. I want to work in the unknown. I want to be scared. I want to be anxious. I want to be yearning to find imagery that astounds me. After some time it occurred to me that it might be fruitful to see the journey I have taken, to look at how I've grown up, to see who I was.
“Beverly and I hired a world renowned photo editor and the three of us spent eight months editing and looking at every one of 4 million images from over 40 projects. My charge to all three of us was to find gems that had been missed and not to include any image that wasn't really terrific. We identified over 1000 images from 32 separate projects at cover a wide range of explorations. I then sat down with a great designer, Alex Spacher of Departures Magazine. It took four months to design the two book box set with each book including 415 pages, for a total of 830 pages.
“In looking back over these pictures I have learned a lot about myself. I think if one spends time looking at the entire body of work one control one's own conclusions as to who I am, as to what interests me, as to what things I am passionate about.
“As for Chic, I find it mostly fun, even entertaining reading and often richly informative. I appreciate the tremendous preparation and effort that you make in producing this marvelous thing.”
Julia Royter, photographed in New York City, December 2009
Liquid Light Study #1132, Melissa Re╠ü,
photographed for Sergio Tacchini in New York City, November 2005
Liquid Light Study #1032, photographed in New York City, January 2005
Ben Kingsley, actor, photographed in New York City, July 2011
Mike Tyson, retired champion,
photographed for Sports Illustrated in Las Vegas, May 2010
Triennale de Milan (the Milan Triennial Exhibition)
Howard Schatz: Body Power
May 28-June 7 at Expo Milan