Homa Taj In Conversation with Filmmaker & Photographer Jerry Schatzberg (part ii)

Jerry Schatzberg, Faye Dunaway Newsweek Cover 1968

Continued from: Homa Taj In Conversation with Filmmaker & Photographer Jerry Schatzberg (part i)

HT – Speaking of cinema, I read in The Hollywood Reporter that you are now going back to making a sequel to Scarecrow (1973)?

JS – I went back thinking that I was going to make a sequel to Scarecrow but when I finished the script, I found out that Gene Hackman has retired. Then I told Al [Pacino] about it… And, then, I thought that a re-make shouldn’t be my return to filmmaking. If I can’t get Hackman, I’d have to eliminate that character.

In any case, the script stands on its own without being a sequel. There are certain things that I would tweak…but, ultimately, it does stand on its own.

Also, I am working on three different films, right now. We’re very close to getting one of them off the ground.

But, then, there is the archiving of my photos. If they are not put in properly you won’t be able to find them.

HT – Well, you are making it easier for art historians to descend on your archives to do research, in the very near future.

JS – I think my papers are going to Harvard. Haden Guest [Director of Harvard Film Archives] told me, “We don’t have a big archive but what we have, we take very seriously.”

HT – In the late 1990’s, I studied film with the former film programmer at the Harvard Film Archives. At the same time, I was working (part-time) at the HCL’s Fine Arts Library. So, I can personally attest that your archives will be in great hands!

JS – That’s great. Harvard will have all the letters and telegrams – there were telegrams before emails – and all the other documents. They already have some of my films. But I would love to have them both in the same place: archives for my films and archives for my photographs.

Actually, all the work that I am doing now, the book with Dylan, the show for the Cinémathèque, the documents… are preparing me for it. Everytime we go into the storage, we find something new.

When I went to the Cinémathèque, they were hanging a new show of Antonioni…

HT – Yes, it’s on right now – until July 19…

JS – Yes, it looked very interesting and gave me some ideas. The theme of my show is From Still to Cinema. A bit like the exhibition at Beaubourg. But, back then, they only had half of my films there, and a small part of my photographs.

Now, I am making a list of the people whom I have photographed and who are working in cinema, in some way.

I really like the space that they have.

HT – Meanwhile, back home, in America… I personally think that there is something fundamentally off about the state of contemporary art in America. And, films too…

JS – I think part of the problem is that people are trying too hard. I have to say, at the beginning, I had a hard time with Andy Warhol and his soup cans. But Warhol was a real artist. A real Pop artist. Out of that movement came Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and others.

I remember the first time that I met Rauschenberg at their loft (they had two), I asked him, “Tell me, are you trying to be humurous?” He said, “No. I am just trying to make people aware.” And, that made an impression on me. We had a long talk. And, we continued to meet several times over the years.

Some things he had done had influenced me. For example, I began to photograph stuff on the street – the garbarge that people throw away. I’d find a nice composition – I never move anything – and, I just photograph them. Rauschenberg would paint them, and I photograph them. I’ve taken a couple thousand of them – that I really like. And, I’d like to show them.

HT – Speaking of exhibiting never before seen photos, what experiences have you had of working with private dealers.

JS – Once, I had a show with a gallery. I didn’t care for the way he had hung my pictures so I told him that if you put this picture next to this one, you won’t see the third. But if you put this one in the middle, you’ll see all three. He didn’t like it at all. He was very upset!

HT – I laugh… because my film (The Dealer) is about an art dealer and, it references photography…

JS – Well, there was a time when ICP (International Centre for Photography) wouldn’t touch a fashion photographer’s work. And, now, fashion photography is considered art.

HT – Yes. It’s everywhere. Boston MFA did a show of Mario Testino in 2012, another one on Herb Ritts is on now until November 8. etc…

JS – I loved the Avedon’s show at the Met (2002), and the Irving Penn exhibition at MoMA (2009-10). I liked Penn’s catalogue. The way he puts a bowl of soup, a fashion image, and a portrait alongside each other.

You see, photogaphy is different from sculpture or paintings. It’s more a way of seeing.

HT – If you were to do photography now, would you use a digital camera?

JS – I like digital. I am not a technical snob. Mary Ellen Mark who recently passed away, she would never shoot digital. For me, it is the mind and the content that makes the photograh not the film or the technology. I want my films to be beautiful. If I take a photograph on the subway and it is blurred, if I like the content, I don’t care that it is blurred.

I mean, look at Blonde on Blonde (the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1966 album). It is moving. I only had three images like that. Everyone is trying to say that it was a trip, it was LSD. It wasn’t any of that. We started shooting in the studio. And, we thought, let’s go out. We’ll find more light outside, somewhere in the meatpacking district.
People are always asking me where it was taken, and I have tried to find it. I think they’ve gentrified it.

HT – [Laughs] You think?

JS – Well, there are places that have remained the same, but I think that place is gone. I did take some very beautiful images that I really like and that I have shown in exhibitions. It was Dylan that chose that blurred photograph for the cover of his album. It was cold. We were shaking. So the photo came out blurry. People have always tried to theorize it. But that was it. I mean, the record company would have never allowed such an image on an album cover. But Dylan could do whatever he wanted.

HT – So, the quivering anxiety of a new generation wasn’t what you had in mind?

JS – We let people interpret their own thoughts. It’s just that no one wants to hear about the technical aspects, or that it was cold and we were both shivering [laughs].

HT – Speaking of technical aspects, does using digital also apply to filmmaking for you?

JS – I used a digital camera in my the last film. I liked it. It worked fast. I didn’t do a lot. But my next film will be digital. I have no problem with that. I haven’t jumped into pigment prints, yet. I still like silver gelatin and c prints. I like very much what they look like but they are not archival enough. Also, for the time being, collectors want silver or platinum prints, or what they already know about. But, I have nothing against digital prints. In fact, I have made some digital prints and I challenge anybody to tell me which is digital and which is silver.

Jerry Schatzberg is represented by Rukaj Gallery in Toronto, Canada