Thursday, June 14, 2007
Howard Schatz - Trading Species
From plants to animals, shooting to retouching, Howard Schatz is a photographic Renaissance man
Because he was still shooting film, Schatz didn't have the luxury of knowing definitively if and when he had the shot. If he were to do the project tomorrow, he'd shooting digitally.
“It helps a lot,” he says of his new gear. “We shoot almost all digital now. I don't need Polaroid film. I don't have to wait a minute and a half to say, Let's see what the Polaroid looks like. And for action stuff, you can see if you've got it. I just shot five dancers—I made up the letters of [the client's] company out of five dancers—and I clicked, looked at the screen and could show [the models]. I said, ‘Look how your hand is out a little bit here. You have to move your hip over here a little bit. It can't be curved.' You get this feedback in—simply, Did you get it? That's pretty marvelous.”
With Athlete, Schatz shot film and made drum scans on a machine “the cost of a Porsche,” he says, that now sits in his studio all but untouched. He made some composite images that look like perfect multiple exposures, as well as standard color corrections and retouching. But unlike Botanica, he kept these images very documentary in nature.
“I didn't change the bodies,” he says. “It was pretty pure. The yellow image of the discus thrower, there might have been some shadows in the corner that I evened out. The rhythmic gymnast stretched across two chairs—there were two mirrors, each 4x8 feet; I removed the line where the mirrors met.”
Whether he's exploring the human form or the colors of a rose, it's the exploration that Schatz seems to enjoy most. He's surrounded by a team that not only pushes him creatively, but keeps the work coming in that pays the bills. Namely, his wife, Beverly Ornstein, ensures that Schatz is able to explore whatever subjects pique his interest.
“She runs our business,” he says of Ornstein. “In a way, I'm able to be the kid—to play around and make images and make lousy images and try things and screw up and be crazy, while she's like the adult keeping things in order.”
That order comes from a full schedule of commercial work, as well as numerous ongoing personal projects that usually end up in book form. Neither could exist without the other.
“Rarely do photography books make any money for the photographer,” Schatz says. “I'd say that 299 out of 300 photography books are just calling cards. And I don't do the books to do the books; I make the photos because I need to make the photos. I have this in me—I love making pictures, and I do them and I do them and it turns out that it's a body of work, and Beverly gets them out there. How do the books function? They help our reputation. Art directors see our work and say, ‘Can you do something like this for us?'
“If I were doing commercial work all the time, I couldn't,” Schatz adds. “If I were doing fine-art work all the time, I'd go broke. You try to find balance. It's like balancing on a pin: You're falling off all the time and getting stuck.”
To see more of Howard Schatz's photography, visit www.howardschatz.com.
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