Friday, June 8, 2007
Howard Schatz - Uncommon Vision
Howard Schatz's career sprung from unlikely beginnings. In Rare Creatures, he walked a line between commercial and personal vision, and also between film and digital technology.
Suggest to Howard Schatz that the computer is shortchanging photography, and he bristles. In his view, the end result, the beautiful image, justifies any means needed to attain it.
“Working in the darkroom is a very respected craft—to alter contrast, to crop, to burn, to dodge, to bleach, to diffuse—to do all the things you can do in the darkroom,” says Schatz. “When you hear ‘computer,' it sounds like you're cheating a little bit, when in fact it's the same thing. You just have so much more control, and the range of what you can get from a negative is so much greater. So I use the computer as a digital darkroom.”
Today, Schatz shoots more and more with digital, and less and less film. Even when he's using film, the computer factors into the workflow. It affects the way he shoots everything.
Perhaps there's no project that Schatz has engaged in more completely and that better combines the two sides of his photographic being, commercial and personal, than his book, Rare Creatures. The 72 images are portraits of models from around the globe. But instead of the typical glamour shots and high-fashion images one would expect, these are portraits of the women themselves. In a way, they have stepped out of character. Schatz simply wanted his subjects to stop modeling for five minutes. Digital afforded the opportunity to simplify the photography sessions up front and allowed Schatz the flexibility to finish perfecting images in the computer.
“I wanted to make something beautiful and innocent,” he says. “I tried to get them to stop modeling. I put a camera up and they gave me this model's look. So I tried to make that go away, to make them aware of it, to create portraits of models.”
The project emerged when Schatz realized while casting for commercial projects that he was fortunate to meet some of the most beautiful women in the world. Often hundreds would walk through his studio door, each for only seconds, in a typical day. Says Schatz, “And just to make them comfortable, so it doesn't seem like a total cattle call, so it's not disrespectful, I usually say hello, shake hands, and ask where they're from.”