DPP Home Profiles Howard Schatz: At The Fights, In The Studio

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

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Schatz is a perfectionist, and working with these athletes and building At The Fights took thousands of images. His love of boxing and his admiration for the athletes are palpable. Says Schatz, "I made 100,000 images. I edited and edited and edited, and everything in the book, I love. You can pick any image and I remember the session, I remember everything about it." Above: James Kirkland.
Creating A Deep Card
Even a casual sports fan will recognize many of the famous faces in the book: Manny Pacquiao, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson. This makes it all the more impressive that Schatz was able to recruit them to the project. The farther he went, the easier it got.

"The more money an athlete makes," Schatz says, "the harder it is to get them to your studio. But this was a six-year project, and slowly but surely, more and more people came on. I got Jim Lampley, I got the great writers, I got the commissioners, the promoters, the managers. And slowly but surely, each of these very wealthy athletes felt the pressure of doing this, and I got almost every single champ who exists today.

"Partly, also," he continues, "it's a small world. Boxing isn't like baseball or football. Eventually, they all got behind me. When the images started getting published in The Ring magazine, I became well known in boxing fairly soon as somebody who made images that looked different from anybody else's. The writers wrote about it, the television announcers announced it, the promoters wanted me to make their pictures."

In addition to the studio sessions and photographs of promoters, commentators and other figures from the boxing world, Schatz photographed the fights themselves. Above: A sequence from the Pacquiao vs. Clottey fight, March 2010.
In Schatz's Arena
Once Schatz had an athlete in his studio, and he had explained his mission, he would set about making his special photographs. To do this, he started long before in the library, reading every book he could find about the sport and looking at almost every special photograph that has ever been made of a boxer. He'd develop a game plan, and then, of course, prepare to deviate from that plan as needed. That's how he surprises himself.

"Every time I shoot," he says, "I don't want to make stuff I've made before. It would bore me. I want to amaze myself. I told that to the boxers: Unless we're amazed, we've failed. So for every boxer who came in I had a list of 10 ideas, every one of which was different from anything I had done. I would start with one idea, and sometimes one idea led to something I never even thought of, and sometimes one idea wasn't so great and I went on to the second one. But I had a pile of ideas every single time. I tried to find my own way. I tried to not duplicate anything. That was the goal throughout, and the goal was informed by the fact that these are courageous, sometimes monstrous, powerful, passionate, sometimes vicious, sometimes dark, incredible characters. And I tried to make images that fit those adjectives."

Although Schatz is a master of sculpting subjects with light, it was the athletes' bodies that most garnered his attention. He directed boxers to imagine that someone was building a museum of boxing, and they'd be making a gigantic statue of a boxer using this pose as a model. How would you pose? And the boxers helped the photographer find strong, graphic, iconic poses.


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