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|
Says Schatz, "A smile is a suit and tie, a smile is a bank vault cover. How do you get through that? What's behind there? A smile is not to let you in. It's a barrier. To try to get somebody to be enigmatic, a puzzle, so I can't read you, I can't tell happy, sad, good, bad, mad or glad, I just can't tell, give me nothing. Sometimes that was enough, that worked. Other times, the actor wanted to do something—look intelligent, look inquisitive, look in wonder. I said let it go, let it go.
"Everybody has a certain barrier to the world to protect themselves," he continues. "It's normal. It's normal not to be totally vulnerable to everything out there. The world is tough, dangerous, critical, so it's normal to have a certain façade, a certain thing on your face, a certain level of protection and defense. That's normal. And to let that go for me, a stranger and my camera, that's not easy. But that's what I like to try to do. So, to the actors, I could say let that go, and I would try to say it in a nice way. I'd say, 'You have this natural twinkle in your eye, a sweet twinkle.' Or, 'You have a natural sort of intellectual intensity.' I'd make something positive. And they understood. There were a few times I would go to the mirror and show them, 'Look, do you see that?' and I'd point something out. You know, we have a part in our brain that recognizes faces, and it's a very large area in the brain that does that. And, we, as human beings, see these tiny little subtle microscopic variations in a face that help us read a person. So, to try to get that all to go away, it's hard. You have to see it, admit it, know it and then work to get rid of it. But I'm able to most of the time. I tell stories, and then as I'm telling stories, I say, 'You're listening to me without anything on your face.' Then they understand. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but most of the time I can get there.
"When they try," Schatz says, "when they do something, they're trying to affect the picture, they're trying to tell the observer what they're supposed to feel. I say, 'I'd like the observer to make up their own mind.' I want them to look and wonder: Where is he going? Where has he been? What are his dreams? That's my way of making a portrait."
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