Photographers are typically the more analytical group of artists working today. Some break boundaries. When pushed, they take what is before them and creatively transform the real into the unreal – or even surreal. Placed in the hands of a master, like that of internationally recognized photographer Howard Schatz, collaborations with subjects make one step back and appreciate the underlying creative process needed to make a stunning image today.
What follows is the account by Howard Schatz during one of his creative pursuits of mixing illustration, painting and photography into one. As quoted, Howard prefers the ability of a photograph to uncover the unexpected. Howard has contributed this through his online journal – On Seeing: entry – September 29, 2016 – #177.
Below are two related stories that run parallel.
1. The text;
2. The images.
I have interwoven the text with the photographs (documenting the evolution of a creative process). Parallel tracks. I suggest: first follow the photographs.
Only then, read the text.
Recently, after having delivered a major address (to a medical group) entitled “From Science to Art,” I was asked to describe the difference between my earlier working life as a physician and my current life as a photographer.
Though I instantly replied “that’s easy,” in fact it’s not an easy answer at all; it’s really complex.
But this was a Q&A session and I am fully aware that such events/sessions are about the audience, not me – that my mission in such a situation is to inform and entertain. Answers to such questions ought to be interesting, enlightening and, with any luck, memorable. And definitely not long-winded.
As a physician, my work had to do with care, compassion and getting it right, exactly right. I had to know all that was possible to know, to be a constant student to gain new knowledge and use that knowledge correctly to do all I could for every patient that came to me for care. There was no “let’s play around and try this,” (as there is in art).
In art, especially in the kind of photography that I do, things are always new, experimental and changing. I am living a life that is a constant treasure hunt, an exploration to see what I’ve never seen, or see only what is in my imagination. Every working day, I try to create a world of imagery that is unique, original, interesting, compelling, beautiful, or all of the above. It’s a fascinating, exciting and stimulating existence.
My answer to the questioning physician was very short, something like: “Medicine was meaningful and satisfying, yes; but very careful, precise and unforgiving. In art, I awake every day instilled with the quest to invent, to see things never before seen. And then, if successful, to delight in my discovery. If it doesn’t work, I start over again, not something you can say about retina surgery.”
This shoot was special, a prime example of the fluidity of art, because I had the extraordinary opportunity to work with Kirsten Bode, another artist whose desire to explore and discover was equal to mine.
What was so special is that the make-up artist is also a painter. She had previously shown me some of her work, and I decided to use three of her pieces as background for the body-painting, and to paint the model so that she fit “naturally” into the painting.
The afternoon was spent using her body as a canvas.
Artistic collaboration offers the opportunity to imagine and create imagery that was not or could not be imagined by either artist individually. I love such creative sessions.