|Roy Schatt was born on November 21, 1909 in New York.
Roy Schatt is World Famous for his series of photographs of actor James Dean, most notable being the 'Torn Sweater' photos. The photographs were taken before Dean became a star.
Educated in New York, he started as an illustrator for government agencies in the 1930s, under the presidency of Franklin D Roosevelt.
In addition, before he became a photographer, Roy Schatt studied painting with N.C. Wyeth and worked as a graphic artist for BBD&O on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. Living in Greenwich Village in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Schatt met Jose Quintero who was directing Tennessee Williams' Summer & Smoke at the Circle-in-the-Square Playhouse. Roy's portraits of the cast went on display in the lobby and Harpers Bazaar and Vogue featured his portrait of Geraldine Page. During this period, Roy's numerous subjects included the likes of Rod Steiger, Patricia Neal, Budd Schulberg, Elia Kazan, Arthur Penn and Ben Gazzara. Schatt's subjects also include Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Billie Holiday, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams and many others. Although he is famous for photographing actors and other celebrities, Roy Schatt's work is the antithesis of glamour photography. He always sought out the "unguarded moment." Schatt was also an actor and his emotionally exposed style led to him being called the "Method" photographer because of the many parallels with the revolution that was then sweeping the acting world. Famed teacher Lee Strasberg recognized this kinship when he named Schatt theOfficial Photographer of the Actor's Studio.
The James Dean pictures are undoubtedly the crowning achievement of Schatt's career. As he recalled many year's later, Schatt was mesmerized from almost the first moment they met: "He was a squinty schlump of a person all bent over. Then Dean suddenly got up and this ugly person became a dream, an Adonis who started to dance around the room. It was a transition I couldn't believe." Dean studied photography with Schatt and they became close friends.
During the course of their yearlong friendship, Schatt and Dean formed a perfect photographer/subject relationship that resulted in many of the most popular images of Dean. "Dean was a method actor," Schatt explained, "being an actor, I was able to recognize that theatrical instinct. I would direct and provoke and the scenes would become inspiration. But the photograph still must be honest and interesting beyond the performance."
Roy Schatt was Dean's friend and photography teacher during the final year and half of his life. During that time, his camera captured the many facets of Dean's complex personality. The 15 photographs contained in the "JAMES DEAN NEW YORK 1954 - IMAGES BY ROY SCHATT" portfolios, which include 6 of the famous "Torn Sweater" series, some of the most unforgettable portraits of the actor. They present rare glimpses of Dean during photo sessions with Schatt, relaxing at home, on the rehersal set, and on the streets of New York, the city he called his home.
He said of Dean:
"I knew James Dean… as a friend and as a student. He was a disrupter of norms, a bender of rules, a disquieter of calm. Through these photographs I hope to transmit a glimpse of his most insistent, and perhaps eternal, presence."
Besides his famous pictures of Dean, he also took some amazing shots of Steve McQueen. According to Steve McQueen Online:
In January 1955, Edward Steichen chose a Roy Schatt photograph as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. His work has been exhibited at the Staley-Wise Gallery in Soho, Manhattan's ICP, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and the Chicago Art Institute. Roy’s second book "faces of the 50’s" is in it’s final stages and is currently being reviewed by several major domestic and international publishers.
In 1991, he sued the James Dean Foundation after photos from a 1982 book of his images turned up on posters, calendars and fridge magnets. He received a $200,000 payment.
Jan 10, 2006, The Lowe Gallery in Santa Monica featured some great photographs from Roy Schatt and James Dean in a show called 'The Mirrored Psyche.'
Mr. Schatt died Saturday, May 4, 2002 in his Manhattan home from congestive heart failure. He was 92.
Schatt’s work has been exhibited at Manhattan's International Center for Photography, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, the Chicago Institute of Art and many other museums. In January 1955, Edward Steichen’s choice for the Museum of Modern Art's collection was a Roy Schatt photograph.
WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC is the exclusive representation of the estate of photographer Roy Schatt (1909-2002) in collaboration with Ron Cayen Inc.
Here are photos of Dean and the last one shows Schatt with one of his many photos of him.
Here is Schatt taken by James Dean.
Images of Bille Holiday.
Shelley Winters and Ben Gazzara
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.