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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.

Almost eight years later, along with his wife, Beverly Ornstein (who doubles as his professional partner and occasional boss), he still lives and works in the same West Broadway studio. And in that short time, Schatz has published an average of two books a year, and photographed on assignment for Time and Sports Illustrated—he achieved a rapid level of success that's almost unheard of.

Schatz learned by reading. To this day, photography books are a favorite vice. “I'd read, I'd go to galleries, look at photography books,” says Schatz. “I bought books. I bought the equipment. I edited my film. I became very serious about it.” Then he began experimenting and applying the knowledge he had gained to his own work—which was soon published.

Illustrating the best in career advice, Schatz decided to do what he loved—photographing the human form. He had been working on a series of dancers photographed underwater. “I did what I had a passion for, a compulsion for, an obsession about,” he says. “There's got to be some emotion about it. Your psyche has to be tuned for it.”

Schatz entered an image in a Graphis annual photography contest. A publisher from Graphis called to inquire about the image, wanted to see more like it, and then met with Schatz to tell him Graphis wanted to publish a book of the work. That was Passion And Line. “I was lucky,” Schatz says now, less than a decade later and 14 books into his career.

From that enjoyable personal work came the paying gigs. Now advertising and editorial assignments are like a research grant to Schatz. “A physician who does science will apply for a research grant. The grant pays to do the research for the work, but the grant also supports the secretary and pays for the laboratory and pays for lots of things you can do. And so advertising jobs are like that. With the money from advertising jobs, I'm able to work on my own projects.”

Although he has given up seeing patients, Dr. Schatz still makes his way into Mr. Schatz's studio. But he's quick to point out that there are philosophical differences between the two. “In photography, you can take chances,” says Schatz. “You can experiment and you should. In photography, you can take hundreds and hundreds of pictures, and hopefully, there will be one. In medicine, you've got one chance. If you operate on someone's eye, and it isn't perfect, you could lose the eye. In photography, you want to make mistakes, you want to be crazy.”

Adds Schatz, “I feel very lucky to shoot what I love.”


The book Rare Creatures is available at Amazon.com, or from Howard Schatz's website: www.howardschatz.com, in a signed, limited edition of 1,000.



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