‘In Character: Actors Acting’ by Photographer Howard Schatz – A Book Review

Book Review, Foreward by Roger Ebert, Howard Schatz, Howard Schatz Photographer, In Character: Actors Acting, Robert Klein, Kelsey Grammer, Don Cheadle, Edie Falco, Rosie Perez, Stage Actors, Screen Actors, Hollywood Actors, Front Cover In Character: Actors Acting” © 2006 by Photographer Howard Schatz is a great book of some technically very poor photography…

How great is this book?

If you are a photographer of people, if you don’t own this book, you should consider at least reading it at your local library.

Why read a book on photography of technically very poor photography?

First of all, Schatz is a great photographer.  He pursues many disparate themes and has turned many of these themes into photo books.

His prolific works in photo coffee table books include:

Some of his books and photography are breath taking.  Some so so.

The images in “In Character: Actors Acting” are shot using a plain white backdrop, a wide angle lens – which gives the subjects that exaggerated perspective somewhat freaky look, and I don’t think there is single image in the whole book you’ll like to view on your wall, or anywhere for that matter… except in this book

You will like to see these images in this book…

Again, why?

Well, we photographers of people use cameras to tell a kind of story about the people we photography.  Of course, we like for these images to be compelling, or beautiful or to perhaps sell.

The list of actors photographed in “In Character: Actors Acting” is a veritable who’s who of our finest stage, screen and television actors including: F. Murray Abraham, Jason Alexander, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn, Chevy Chase, Hume Cronyn, Richard Dreyfus, Charles Durning, Peter Falk, Steve Guttenberg, Buck Henry, Judd Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, James Earl Jones, Marlie Matlin, Robert Vaughn.. and more than 80 other house hold names you’ll know or recognize in a heavy, large 264 page book.  If you buy one used, make sure the binding is tight… Both copies I have seen had loose bindings… the pages are that heavy…

Fred Ward, Actors Acting, In Character, Howard Schatz, Black and White
Three images of Fred Ward with screen direction. Try reading the face first, then mix in a reading of the direction

What Schatz has done, is to provide a kind of screen direction to the actors. Several in a series of directions usually, and photographed the actors as they acted out the screen direction, using a still camera… with a wide-angle lens and flat light.

We are told what the screen direction is, and also gain insights from editorial comments of the actors about their art and process.

Elliot Gould, Fran Drescher, David Carradine, Charles S. Dutton, Richard Dreyfus, Rear Cover, Actors Acting, In Character, Howard SchatzThese are a fine set of editorial photographs Schatz has put together… out of the context of any editorial background (all set on plain white backdrop).  The only context is what we believe we know about these actors and the shared insight of the stage direction.

In Character: Actors Acting” provides concise fascinating insight into how the actors feel about acting.  Almost all of them to a fault feel that stage acting is acting, movie acting is not acting, and TV acting is something less than acting… to paraphrase.

While movies, TV and stage all have context.  And movies are a kind of photography, there is context with all of these story telling modes.

In still photography, the image provides the complete context… except in the case of editorial books like “In Character: Actors Acting,” where in the accompanying text provides the context, which keeps us engaged.

In Character: Actors Acting” has me engaged from cover to cover… Thou again, I would not look long or twice at any photograph in the book.

There is a great deal one may learn about photography, movies, acting and the value of context through a fun study of “In Character: Actors Acting.”  Last time I looked, it’s about $40 new and under $10 used.

To buy a new or used copy of “In Character: Actors Acting” on Amazon, click here.

For list of other books reviewed on GlamourPhotography.co, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.