Monday, November 26, 2007
Howard Schatz - Master Of Underwater Serenity
For physician-turned-photographer Howard Schatz, the ultimate photo studio is the pool he had built for photography. The iconic images speak for themselves.
Adds Schatz, “We have ultra-filtration—it's filtered as if there were five times the amount of water. We have an exchange of water that occurs in no time versus eight hours. Our water is crystal-clear; we deal with everything—the chemistry, the pH, the chemicals. When I shoot, there's no chlorine in the water. The girls have their eyes open; they don't feel anything. It's like they're swimming in tears. It's as clear as Evian, but Evian would be very uncomfortable. When the model opens her eyes underwater, it's a totally different experience than she has ever had in her life.
“Not all models can do this,” he says. “It takes a certain amount of training. It's very much like playing tennis. If you put a tennis racquet in the hands of 100 people who have never played tennis, none of them will do it well at first, but some will start doing it well in a shorter time. Some of them will never do well. Underwater, the odds are even worse. I have a dozen or so models, 20 maybe, who can do this well. And I've cast 1,000. The best people are dancers. Gravity is their adversary, and underwater there's no gravity. All of a sudden they can make a leap that lasts a minute.”
Schatz considers research a valuable part of his creative process, and he takes inspiration from a culture rich in visual imagery. Although he emphasizes preparation, he firmly believes that as essential as ideas are, photographers must remain open to the moments that present themselves.
“Seriously,” Schatz says, “I'm living my life in this world of photography to surprise and delight myself. If I have done that in a day, it's a great day. If I haven't done that, but I've tried, okay. But if I don't get a chance to try it, well, that's terrible.
“You have to start with an idea,” he continues. “So I'll have five or 10 ideas, and you start with the first idea, but then you have to be open to climb the creative tree. You climb up a branch and try one thing, and it turns out the branch is rotten and you fall off. But I always say you fall in soft grass. You climb up the tree again, and you find you'll go out on a limb, and on that limb is a cherry to pick every inch. So I'm always open to exploring each branch as it presents itself to me. I'm open during a shoot to variation and modification and curves and turns and switches.
“That's the surprise part and the delight,” Schatz says. “Sometimes I can make a picture that's in my mind, and I might delight myself that I did it, but I won't surprise myself. If I want to surprise myself, I have to be open to chance and mistakes.”
To see more of Howard Schatz's photography, visit www.howardschatz.com.
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