Intro by Skip Cohen
I've often referred to myself as one of the luckiest guys in photography because I've been fortunate to work with and get to know some of the finest artists in the world. One of those artists is Howard Schatz and his business partner and wife, Beverly Ornstein. They're a remarkable couple and looking back, the friendship kicked off in the nineties, back in my Hasselblad days.
He had just released "Pool Light" and the images were spectacular. They were unlike anything we had seen before. In fact, that's one of my favorites on the right.
Today Howard and I were recording an upcoming episode of "Why?" with one of his images. (Check out "Why?" on Monday, May 9.)
It's always great to catch up with him. I hung up the phone and wandered over to his blog. There's so much great content on his blog with images that span years of a unique perspective on his subjects, lighting, creativity and special projects, all combined with stunning photography.
Howard's post below is all about a portrait session he did with Mike Tyson on request from Jim Colton, the photo editor of Sports Illustrated. I love the way Howard takes you through his thought process and makes his point about portrait sessions being "intimate encounters".
The title of Howard's original post was "Mike Tyson: Human Being". When you read the post and see the images he shared, that's exactly the story Howard has shared.
Howard needs to be on your radar. Just click on any image of Mike Tyson and you'll be linked to Howard's blog and the opportunity twice a week to catch up with one of the all-time great people in this industry! And, if you've got an interest in Howard's books or just seeing more of his work, click on the images of his new book below.
A BIG thanks to Howard for allowing me to share this post on the SCU site. And, to both Howard and Beverly for being such great friends for so many years - we might only catch up live at a convention once a year, but that doesn't change how much I value the friendship. What a kick to share the same passion for imaging!
by Howard Schatz
All portrait photography sessions are intimate encounters, both for the portraitist and the subject. In the best of these encounters, the process, and the results, are memorable. Of the thousands of portraits I have done during more than three decades of studio and location work, none was ever more memorable than the time I spent with one of the most ferocious heavyweight champions in the history of boxing.
Since Tyson has a giant and well-known reputation for bad behavior, from depraved to vicious to monstrous, the chance to photograph and talk with him about his life, career, and his feelings about boxing seemed to be a rare opportunity; an opportunity that turned out to be a gift. The experience ended up revealing a very human Mike Tyson, one that at the time had not been widely seen.
I share it here, now.
I do all I can before a portrait shoot to interview my subject. A pre-shoot interview allows the subject to see that I am thoughtful and very interested in them as human beings, that I am serious about the undertaking and intent on making a great portrait. Just as important, the interview also teaches me something about the subject. Often there are revelations that are fascinating, some of which can be utilized as directions during the shoot.
Here are some of the images we made, and some of the things he told me about himself and his life both in and out of boxing.
Tyson: "In the first stage of boxing, the infantile stage, you win only because you are stronger. The second stage you win because you’re tougher. The top stage, the apex stage of boxing, you win because you are smarter. You watch the guy moving, you are tough enough to endure. You see the bigger picture, you may give up rounds for the bigger picture.“
"I don’t care how great you are, how talented you are, without discipline you are nothing. Under the slightest trouble you give in without discipline.”
“I’m a predator. I’m very distinctive; I actually study my opponent, I study my opponent’s parents and children. I study everything about him, and by studying him and knowing myself, out of a thousand battles, I’ll know the results.”
“I’m sure I have brain damage. When I get involved with something, I don’t go check chapter one, chapter two. I don’t even know what I’m getting myself into because I go full speed. My whole goal to success was depriving myself of pleasure. That was my thing…. I can torture myself for a goal, that’s just how my mind works. If I want to accomplish something, I will suffer; I can do anything if I have that desire for that goal, to be something, to be the best fighter in the world.”
“All my hero’s were schmucks. They all got ripped off, got used by women and everyone else, like me. Look at these guys now, they are in a horrible place. But when they fought they could do something, they had this magic; they could make the whole world stop and watch. And then they’re going to end up in the gutter, they are going to end up miserable. They have nothing. But these guys, when they were on they were ON! The world noticed them. I admired those guys, but I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want to finish up like that.”
“I go to boxing matches just for the excitement now, more than the fight. When it’s done magnificently, it’s just hard not to love boxing.“
After I had made a wide range of images I told him that he had done tremendously well and that we were essentially finished. Then, I said, "So, how about we’ll do something "different?” He responded, readily, “Sure, like what?”
I gave him a few ideas and he produced, among a few other things, this image.
I sent this one in to the yearly American Photo contest and it won “Image of the Year" and made the cover.
After seeing the published images in SI, RING Magazine asked me if there were others. They chose this one for their cover.
When our session was at its end I asked him if we could make a portrait of his family who he brought with him to the shoot. He gently called out “Milan,” and his 18 month-old daughter came running onto the set and into his arms. She looked at his oiled body (done for the initial photography), wondered, then touched his chest hesitantly and giggled.
Tyson: “I think my wife and my daughter deserve the best of me. They need to have the best of me physically, spiritually, and mentally. So I have to work on becoming the best and find out how this path has got to go.”
After he was showered and dressed, we asked his wife, Lakiha, to complete the picture.