Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Howard Schatz: At The Fights, In The Studio
Howard Schatz’s 19th book is an in-depth exploration of the forms, shapes and textures of all things boxing, and the images are exceptional
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Sechew Powell skipping rope.
"We have to work really hard to do it," Schatz would explain, "and we have to do it together. It's like winning a championship. It's not easy. You're 32 and 2, and you've won the WBC and the IBO. It wasn't easy, it took years, and it could be plucked away from you at anytime. It's the same with these photographs; we've got to really work hard so that they're fantastic."
Fantastic, they are. Sublime, striking, surreal, simply stunning. This collection of boxing photographs—primarily studio portraits of boxers, although it includes ringside action shots and a bit of documentary as well—might very well be Schatz's finest work to date. The book itself is certainly substantial enough; it's literally and figuratively Schatz's weightiest collection. Which is why once Sports Illustrated got wind of his project, they wanted in.
"I did it because of my interest," he says, "and the fact that there's a book is really great. Sports Illustrated came to me and said who's publishing the book? I said I haven't thought about it yet; I'm still working on it. They said nobody but us should publish this book! But my joy is in the journey. I do it because it fascinates me, it's my interest, it's my passion, and it's my enjoyment."
The Studio As Laboratory
The boxers in the book are mostly champs, but Schatz photographed roughly twice as many boxers, many of whom didn't make the cut. He photographed up-and-comers and also-rans, and promoters, writers and trainers. Unlike many of his projects that center on exploration of the human form, which is certainly included here, with the boxing book Schatz wanted to paint a complete picture of the sport, to make the ultimate examination of the sweet science. In fact, he likens it to a PhD study. His laboratory, of course, is the studio.
Joshua Clottey composite.
"For example," he says, "take that image of Sergio Martinez, where you see jump rope on each side of him and he's in the middle. That's one frame. Can you imagine technically how complicated that is to do? I timed how long it took the jump rope to go around 360 degrees. It's 0.3 seconds. So two jump ropes is 0.6 seconds. So if you set off your strobes at a 0.01 seconds, 1/100th interval, that's 60 strobes in 0.6 seconds. So I made 60 strobes as rim lights in 0.6 seconds to document the jump rope, and I moved the camera side to side, and then at 0.3 seconds, right in the middle, fired one strobe in front. So there he is. Every exposure, every image in the book, is a complicated technological challenge and feat. I didn't want to make plain pictures. I told every boxer, if it's easy, it's been done before, and it becomes 'so what.' It's only when it's impossible are we close to God. And they all understood that."
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