The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (2024)

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By Sheena McKenzie, For CNN

1 minute read

Published 9:40 AM EDT, Mon June 15, 2015

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (1)

People power —

It takes a few moments to focus on the detail, but that's a spectacular arrangement of bodies all right.
"I love seeing what new photography's out there. But of course, the more you see, the harder it is to be surprised by it," said Schatz.
"I photograph to be surprised and delighted myself."
It is one of many spectacular images taken by photographer Howard Schatz during his 25-year career, now displayed in a hefty two-book box set retrospective.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (2)

The dancers —

Schatz has always been fascinated by the human form, and in his distinguished career pointed his lens at everyone from elite athletes, to pregnant woman, and in this image, ballet dancers.
"Each project is like a child -- you don't talk about favorites," he said.
"I've done many more projects than the 32 in this book. And I've loved every one, I feel that I could continue, that none are really ever finished."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (3)

Homeless —

From celebrities to homeless people, Schatz has a remarkable talent for capturing the rarely-seen essence of his subjects.
"For the homeless project (pictured), I wanted to look in the eyes of the people you pass by in the street and that you don't want to look at, you don't want to become engaged with, you don't want to have anything to do with," he said.
"You don't want to feel ashamed and guilty because you have something that they don't.
"But I really wanted to look."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (4)

Behind the mask —

"Anybody who has their picture taken usually does something to influence the picture -- smile is the most obvious. It's another type of mask, it's another way of influencing the camera, of telling it what it's going to see," said Schatz.
"So my challenge in making portraiture, is to try to get rid of the mask."
This evocative black and white portrait also appeared in the "Homeless" series.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (5)

Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone —

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, that is Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone as two bloodied and bruised boxers.
The remarkable images were taken as part of a special series documenting their 2013 film, "The Grudge Match."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (6)

Ring side —

It's almost difficult to look at these two acting legends beating each other senseless, as Schatz's camera catches every squirt of blood, goblet of spit, and misshapen mouth.
Yet in reality, there was always a safe distance between the two.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (7)

The boxers —

It's not all make-believe though. Schatz also documented real life-boxers Amir Khan (left), and Mike Tyson (right).
"We made images that were tough and serious, and then I asked him to make something ferocious and shocking for the camera -- he obliged," said Schatz of Tyson's portrait.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (8)

Light and dark —

Before he was a legendary photographer, Schatz was an eye doctor, and he says the two working environments couldn't be more different.
"In medicine it's about behaving in a mistake-free manner, about not making any errors. It's where a millimeter surgical error can result in a blind eye," he explained.
"But with art, it's about mistakes, it's about taking chances and not being afraid to try anything. I can leave my imagination and creativity totally open and think 'what's the worse thing that could happen?' That the picture didn't come out?'"
Happily for us, that doesn't appear to be the case here.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (9)

Trust me, I'm a doctor —

Schatz says his career as a doctor taught him a lot about putting people at ease -- an important skill when you're taking someone's portrait.
"I was a retina specialist, which meant every patient that was referred to me as a consultant was frightened they were going blind. They were referred to the retina surgeon because they had a retina problem and it was a potentially blinding problem," explained Schatz.
"So I learned to behave in such a way, from the time I walked into the room, that within a minute or two, the patient would take a deep breath and feel they were in the right place with the right doctor; a doctor who cared about them, who listened to them, who really wanted to help them."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (10)

Optical illusion —

Here, Schatz experiments with light and shade against a pregnant woman's body.
The result is hypnotic.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (11)

All shapes and sizes —

"For me, the main thing is the joy in the journey, in the making of the picture," said Schatz.
"It's the treasure hunt and the yearning to discover and see what I haven't seen before."
This collage of female athletes from many different sports demonstrates how the body fits the sport -- and vice versa.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (12)

Elite athletes —

By capturing the colorful swinging motions in this image, Schatz is able to show movement in a static picture.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (13)

Growing up —

The "Growing Up" series documented people from the time they were just a bump in their mother's belly, through childhood, teens, and early adulthood.
It's an ongoing project and one that is endlessly fascinating for the viewer.
"All portrait sessions I make people feel happy and comfortable," said Schatz.
"Sometimes I might do a little interview beforehand to show my interest in them as people. And then I let them do whatever they want for the camera. I say, 'great, great, great.' Then I say, 'okay, we've got that kind of picture, now let's see if we can go somewhere else,' and I try to find a way to get what's really there."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (14)

Actors acting —

For this series, Schatz gave actors very specific characters and asked them to act them out.
In the first image, Taraji Henson was told to imagine: "You're a repressed middle-aged woman suddenly losing your inhibitions at a male strip club."
In the second, Greg Kinnear was told: "You're a 16-year-old high school kid who uses a telescope to spy on people in other buildings, and you see your football coach in bed with your English teacher, Mr Farnsworth."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (15)

Let's pretend —

Bobby Cannavale (left) was told: "Your girlfriend dumped you months ago, but you obsess and can't let go; you see the silhouette of a man on the window shade of her apartment, and you're yelling up, who the hell is that, that you still love her, how the hell can she do that to you..."
While Michael Douglas was told to imagine: "You're a 14-year-old girl, opening her older brother's bedroom door and seeing him in bed with a blowup sex doll."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (16)

Fashion forward —

"The social skills I learned as a doctor has really helped me make portraits," continued Schatz.
"It really helped me to make a stranger feel comfortable with me, a stranger who is initially anxious and who is scared and uncomfortable and really frightened, feel that if anything can be done -- this guy can do it."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (17)

Underwater wonder —

Schatz's "Underwater" series was an ambitious vision that ultimately paid off.
"Making photographs was challenging: Lighting, composition, color accuracy, resolution, clarity, chemistry, temperature ... all became problems to be solved," he said.
"I spent every Saturday, all day, in the pool, working out technical and logistical details."

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (18)

Take a bow —

"It took me six months of Saturdays, and many experiments with willing friends, to reach the point where I felt I could produce well-resolved and, well-lit images."
Clearly, Schatz spectacular body of work is no accident -- it's 25 years of experimentation, determination, and more than a little talent.

The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory

CNN

A new book offers a retrospective of legendary photographer Howard Schatz’s 25-year career. Browse through the gallery to see all the images.

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The photographer who captured the human body in all its intimate glory | CNN (2024)

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