Pool Light by Howard Schatz
There are so many wonderful photographers working these days that it's hardly fair to single out a few for extraordinary praise, but I must confess that there are a few whose careers I closely follow. Howard Schatz is one of those and a photographer whose work I find particularly inspiring. I have no interest in doing photography like Schatz' whatsoever – besides the world doesn't need me to do this kind of imagery because he does it so well. What I find inspiring about his work is his approach to the creative process — a source of inspiration no matter what one photographs.
First, every project Schatz engages is, in one way or another, a collaboration. In this body of work, Pool Light, the cooperation extended to models, assistants, hair and makeup artists, fashion designers, image finishers, and dare I say pool chemists. One doesn't just jump in a pool and make this kind of fabulous image without incredible preparation and help. We've also published Schatz' collaborations with actors, and Cirque du Soleil performers — and in every project one can see the results of collaboration in his images that would simply not be possible if he worked alone, in a vacuum. I'm not sure why it is that the myth of the independent and solitary photographer, slaving away in the field and later in the darkroom, has taken such hold in photographic circles, but it's a myth that needs a strong and curative dose of reality. I'd go so far as to say that collaboration is almost a necessity if one truly wants to explore the excellence that is our potential.
Second, if you'd like to see the breadth of a truly creative photographer, one could not pick a better example than Schatz. He has significant bodies of work in color and black and white, studio work and location work, commercial work and poignantly personal work, modest publications and substantial ones. Schatz does what the most creative people always do — he follows his inclinations and never allows his career or clients or audience expectations to intimidate his project selections. As a result, his work is as varied as can be imagined. Far too many times I see photographers develop a particular look or style and then ride that pony into the sunset as though that is the one and only creative possibility available to them. I am much more inspired by Schatz' approach that promotes exploring a visual idea in depth, but not in perpetuity.
Third, hand-in-hand with his creative flexibility is a kind of daring that is incredibly powerful. Schatz is not in the least afraid or intimidated to try something radically new or different. It doesn't always work. To be honest, there are several books of his work that leave me somewhat cold. But it's so true that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," that I have no doubt the work of his that I find less interesting is very likely someone else's favorite. Schatz is fearless and plunges ahead following the one true compass that needs to guide the creative process — his own creative Muse. On occasion I've mentioned to him that I simply can't connect to a body of work that he is all excited about; without pause, he simply moves on and says, "Well, let's look at this!" and then pulls out a different body of work. Schatz doesn't have even a whit of that sensitive ego that protects so many artists from rejection. He's far too busy creating and exploring ideas with his camera to be sidetracked by others' individual preferences. If you don't like it, that's okay, you might like the next thing. What an incredibly healthy outlook that is! It's especially so for anyone involved in a creative process where exploration and rejection, creative experimentation and rule-less innovation are among the chief characteristics.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to full-access members of LensWork Online.
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