Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Howard Schatz: Master Of The Act
Howard Schatz’s new book of portraits is a thoughtful study of actors acting
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
"Every time was an entertainment and a surprise," he says. "There were a number of parts I used many times, and every actor did it differently. Even though I used the same words and read it the same way, every actor made their own interpretation. No actor wants to be told do it this way or that way, so I learned to say, 'I'm going to say it sort of flat. I'm going to give you the information you need to create a character. Make of it what you best can. Here are the paints: red, blue, green, yellow, purple. Make me a painting.'
"They liked the fact that they could do that," he adds, "and, of course, some actors were better than others in terms of possibilities. I would say, 'Let's try it again with a little bit more sweetness, or let's try it again with a little bit more anger, a little more hysterical, a little more subtle.' There were actors who ran out of ideas; they had one or two or three ways of doing things. And there were a few actors who'd say wait, I've got more. We would do five or six shoots and I'd say, 'Okay, let's move on,' and they'd say, 'No, no, I've got a few other ways.'"
Ian McShane, who's best known in the U.S. for his role in the HBO series Deadwood, impressed Schatz by turning his expectations for a character on their head.
"He's a serious, studied, intellectual actor from England," Schatz says of McShane. "He has gone through the English training in the methods of acting. He gave me a surprise. One of the characters I gave him, I had also given that character to two or three other people: 'You're walking home at night and two muggers come at you with knives and guns.' Most people cowered. But he took his fist out and said, 'Come on, you, ____! Let's go!' He surprised me. I gave him a part and he surprised me. He was really creative."
Along with the character studies—which are photographed with a fairly plain photographic technique—he also wanted to create portraits of the actors themselves. These images anchor the book, and elevate it to a celebration of both the art of actors acting and the art of fine photographic portraiture.
"I'm really interested in portraiture," Schatz says. "Tens of thousands of people can make a portrait, but what makes a great portrait, what are the ingredients, what's the magic that makes it? I told the actors that when we were done with the interview and then the characters and the parts, that I'd like to do a portrait that wasn't a vanity portrait, but had more to do with veracity and truth, and that if we could make something good, I told them that I would send them a copy. Given that I said it that way, they were all in and they gave me the time that I needed.
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