Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Howard Schatz: With Child
Howard Schatz’s 20-year study of the pregnant female form in black-and-white
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"Many women said they'd never have done it if it weren't a temporary thing," he says, "or if they didn't want to document it. I had women, when they'd heard about the project, come over and meet me when they were three, four, five months pregnant, just to meet me and to meet Beverly [Schatz's wife]. And I'd say, you know, these are the pictures—there's no clothes. And if they went 'Oop!' I'd say, 'Don't do it. If you're shy, that's okay, that's who you are. That's fine, don't do it.' So if they were interested, then I'd say call me at 37 or 38 weeks and we'll make an appointment and you can come in."
The project isn't just about pregnant women. Schatz paired each image of the mother-to-be with one made later—with her newborn baby. These images aid in completing the visual circle, fully illustrating the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. But because Schatz has done other projects about newborns, these quieter images take a backseat to the dynamic images of pregnancy.
"I wasn't really interested in the baby part," Schatz says. "It was sort of sweet and nice and lovely, but I wasn't as interested. That's why the book was designed the way it was. I had the mothers come back and do that, and I enjoyed doing it, but I wanted the book to be about the pregnancy."
"My direction was, 'Look, with the baby, it's different than the pregnancy,'" he says. "'With the pregnancy, I told you what to do, but this. First of all, the baby is very vulnerable. There's no directing the baby. The whole shoot is going to be about the baby. We'll think of the baby's comfort and the baby's happiness, and we'll go real slow and take our time. And second, I just want you to be in touch with how much you love this little thing. That's all you need to do, and the pictures will be marvelous.'"
To a photographic audience, Schatz's work is also a study in lighting the human form—pregnant, nude or otherwise. The photographer was very deliberate in his approach to creating high-key images, dynamic patterns and moody, dark images. He did it with minimal digital imaging and a deliberate command of light and shadow.
"You have to know what you want to see," Schatz explains. "If you make a black-and-white portrait of somebody and then select them, separate from the background and make the background light, the portrait becomes about black. Make the background black, and it becomes about light. Make the background gray, and then you see everything. You have to decide what you want to see. Is it a curve, is it the form, texture, shape, position? How do I want to crop and compose it? I tried things. And after a while, I had a lot of experience."
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