Thursday, December 6, 2012

Howard Schatz: At The Fights, In The Studio

By William Sawalich, Photography By Howard Schatz Published in Photographer Profiles
For his latest book, Howard Schatz came back to a subject he has been passionate about since the 1950s: boxing. The photography is remarkable. Shooting in the studio and at fight venues, Schatz has created a multifaceted look at the sport and the extraordinary individuals who devote their lives to it. Above: Kassim Ouma works with the speed bag.
For his latest book, Howard Schatz came back to a subject he has been passionate about since the 1950s: boxing. The photography is remarkable. Shooting in the studio and at fight venues, Schatz has created a multifaceted look at the sport and the extraordinary individuals who devote their lives to it. Above: Kassim Ouma works with the speed bag.
"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.

At The Fights, published by Sports Illustrated, with an introduction by broadcaster Jim Lampley.

"I always see the body as sculpture," Schatz explains, "biological sculpture. There are all sorts of study of the body here, every part of the upper torso especially. There's a picture in the book of a boxer's back. It's sideways in the book, a double-page spread, bent over, tattooed, muscular. I remember making that image. I've shot a thousand backs, but I saw differently that moment, and I lit it differently, and I worked in postproduction to multi-tone it differently, and I felt it really is iconic sculpture."

Many images in At The Fights are sure to become iconic, but even if they didn't, even if the book had never seen the light of day, Schatz still would consider the endeavor a resounding success. After all, he succeeded at the one thing he sets out to do day after day: He delighted himself.

"It's not work," he says. "I'm addicted to amazing myself. I'm addicted to the high that comes from making images that surprise me. I can't always do it, it's sometimes elusive and evanescent and difficult, but I keep yearning and working and striving for that high, for that feeling."
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