Jerry Schatzberg , born in the Bronx in 1927, quickly ascended the Olympus of the Big Apple thanks to his immense talent in portraying the greatest stars of music, cinema and fashion. His shots were contested by Vogue, Esquire, McCall. In 1970 he also started his film career with a triplet of memorable films and alas abandoned by US distribution: Mannequin – Fragments of a woman , the touching Pico at Needle Park (1971, with a debutant Al Pacino) and Lo Spaventapasseri (1973) Palma d’Oro in Cannes.
These days a very precious volume has been released with Schatzberg’s photographs capturing Dylan during one of the most crucial moments in the history of music, that fervent creative period between 1965 and 1967 , when Bob recorded the two masterpieces Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde . Here is an exclusive gallery and a historical interview I did to Jerry Schatzberg in 2006 during the Alba Film Festival.
Let’s start from photography, how do you think things have changed since you were a successful photographer …
Now most of the photographers are accompanied by a team that takes care of everything, down to the smallest details. The “craft touch” in today’s photos is fading, especially if we talk about fashion images. In addition, young people, with the necessary but rare exceptions, are refractory to work hard, get up at 4 am, spend hours looking for original locations … I taught and the first thing the apprentices asked me was “how can I become a photographer? success?”. The egocentricity born in the 80s, still reaps victims.
And instead from the technical and aesthetic point of view what has changed?
Digital has changed a lot the technical aspect. Speaking of aesthetics I give you a concrete example: I have observed the work of David LaChapelle, he does not photograph people, but his ideas and I would say that this reminds me of the latest films of a Stanley Kubrick increasingly dependent on ideas and less focused on his relationship with the actors.
Speaking of cinema, what do you think of today’s productions?
In the USA today, most of the people behind the approval of a film are accountants and lawyers. I would say it’s not enough?
The gallery with photos by Dylan of Schatzberg
Let’s move on to beautiful things … in your unforgettable film Panico At Needle Park there was a rookie Al Pacino. Can you tell us something about that experience?
I often felt like I was more a reporter than a director. For this film and in the following Lo Scarecrow I shot many scenes from a great distance, using numerous focal lenses. I wanted to resume so that the actors almost did not realize they were on a set and at the same time I wanted to capture their soul. For this reason I have always looked for the actors to find them from the world of theater.
A few years before I started Panico at Needle Park I had seen in a small theater Al Pacino, its strength impressed me. He was doing a show called Indians Wants The Bronx , he seemed in a trance. But also Gene Hackman is a powerful actor, extraordinary, thanks to him I managed to receive the Palme d’Or for Lo Spaventapasser i. With great regret of your great director Marco Ferreri, now sure to win with La Grande Abbuffata .
Which directors of today do you admire?
George Clooney. He knows cinema and is one of the few people who come from Hollywood that you can really talk to. I like the fact that he takes so many risks as a director.
You’ve worked for many pop rock music stars, who do you remember with greater intensity?
Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones
I did not know anything about Dylan. Nico from the Velvet Underground always spoke to me about him. In the end he took me to a concert that dazzled me. A few days later, Dylan’s wife, Sara, asked me if I wanted to meet Bob. The first time I photographed him was in a studio while he was recording Desolation Row . But I felt the need to bring Bob into my territory, to my studio and he accepted.
Beautiful photos came out, then used for the Blonde on Blonde album.
With the Rolling Stones, everything came from an idea of their manager who wanted a promotional campaign for the single Have you seen your Mother Baby? and the idea was to dress them like their mothers, but I wanted to dress them as if they were American women enlisted in World War II, with the star in the window that reminded me of the place where I lived as a child. Actually I have a whole collection of photographs that will soon become books.