Moving Forward, Looking Back

DPP: Some of our readers may not know that photography is your second career.

Schatz: Yes, I was a retinal surgeon. And, then, in 1995, having been working in photography just on the weekends for five or six years and having a lot of attention, Beverly suggested we take a sabbatical for a year, go to New York and just do photography full time. And it was so much fun. We would go to bed giggling every night over the fun, the adventure. I kept re-upping the sabbatical, and I never looked back. It has been 19 years.

DPP: From the beginning, was it always about personal projects?

Schatz: When you do a commercial project, you’re really photographing somebody else’s dreams, their fantasy, their desires. So, in a way, when I do an advertising shoot, I’m a contractor; just like a contractor in a house has to follow the architectural plans, I, as the photographer, have to skillfully, technically follow the art director’s plans. So they’re not my pictures. Occasionally, an art director will let go and I’ll make something that comes from me, but what I do is, I shoot for myself. The advertising work is so that I can pay to shoot for myself.

DPP: Finding the time and energy to pursue personal projects is a challenge for many photographers.

Schatz: My main goal is to do that. I shoot five days a week, and commercial and editorial work sort of just get in the way. I don’t need to do commercial work all the time. I just need one good job every week or two weeks or month, depending on how well it pays. And I still have plenty of time to do my own work. I shoot all the time and I don’t feel like I’m prolific. I know I’ve produced a lot of work, but I feel like it’s just natural. I’m shooting all the time; it seems only natural that some good images would come from that.

DPP: I know there’s no chance you’re slowing down, but was there any hesitation to look back?

Schatz: Well, it was fun, and it was sickening. With my early stuff, I went "Oh, why did I do that?" I can’t believe I was doing that. I’ve learned a lot in 25 years! You can see in the book there’s lots of stuff that nobody has ever seen. There’s stuff like the "Growing Up" project and "Folsom Street Fair." I’ve never shown it, but I’ve been shooting it for 20 years. There are so many images from the Folsom Street Fair that are fantastic, that’s my next book. There are a lot of parts to me. As long as I’m working all the time, I feel like I’m reasonably productive and I can make some good stuff.

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