Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Ah, the vagaries of time … and yet, in all of that there is something of enduring value – friendship, the comfort of having kindred spirits. Rick Schatzberg and all the participants have created a unique photobook that has time and bonding as its central themes and that succeeds in bringing the shared lives of a group of fellows close to us through a very lively presentation, taking us from the 1970s to the present.
When Schatzberg found out about the passing of two of his friends, who were members of a group of fellows who call themselves ‘The Boys,’ with whom he grew up in Long Island, he set out to photographically document the group, including himself, over a period of almost two years. He took new large-format portraits, for which they courageously took off their shirts, literally and metaphorically, along with images of some personal objects. He also collected and assembled photographs from their shared histories, more in the vein of personal mementos and snapshots.
The result has been curated into a most satisfying and unique work that transcends time, space, and cultural specificities, even as it illustrates these. It is a monument and tribute to an often neglected species – the aging male. The so-called ‘gaze’ of the male looking back upon his particular ‘old times’ marked by youthful feelings of invincibility and permanency is now tinged heavily with the realization of finiteness. Schatzberg states, “Time accelerates as we age. Self-preservation becomes an occupation.”
“There is an eternal present in a photograph, but I see past, present, and future all at once. … We have a sense of an ongoing self … it’s a process, a continuum, changing moment to moment.” – Rick Schatzberg
The juxtaposition of then and now is a very effective technique. Here it is also tied to confronting images from a more informal, more carefree history with those of the more sobering here and now. The book is arranged in twelve parts, each featuring some commentary by Schatzberg and a special gatefold that reveals one of the guys in our time behind the pages of the past. Even the gestures match at times, and we get the eerie feeling of the passing of time, in our bones and in our heart. The pictures from the past often are more colorful, to reflect the exuberance and the variety of activities from their younger days, while the formal portraits from the present are somewhat more muted to reflect the level of dignity achieved by each individual.
As Rick Moody states in his very astute essay, printed as a separate booklet presented in a pouch, such a narrative of aging men struggling to maintain their dignity is not easy to behold. That fact explains the neglect that this group has heretofore received, with the exception of such courageous contributors as John Coplans. There are many more observations by Moody worth contemplating; I leave that to the discriminating viewer/reader to whom I highly recommend this enjoyable and lovingly produced photobook.
Rick Schatzberg – THE BOYS
Photographer: Rick Schatzberg (born in Long Island, NY; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Norfolk, CT)
Publisher: powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY, USA; © 2019
Essay: Rick Schatzberg; afterword by Rick Moody (separate booklet)
Hardback with illustrated cover, debossed title, sewn; 144 pages, unpaginated, with twelve gatefolds; 8 x 9.7 inches (20.3 x 24.5cm); printed by Jos Morree Fine Books, Weesp, Netherlands, and bound by FopmaWier, Netherlands; ISBN: 978-1-57687-963-4
Photobook Designer: Sybren Kuiper aka -SYB-
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