Rick Schatzberg captures his closest friends, reflecting on a life shared
“I was in Berlin in the spring of 2017 when I got a call from one from one of my friends back home, saying, ‘you probably heard Jon died last night’. I hadn’t heard, and I was really thrown by it. He died from an overdose. Another friend of ours, Eddie, had died nine months previously,” Rick Schatzberg explains.
At the time, Schatzberg, now 67-years-old, was studying an MFA in photography at the university of Hartford. “In the second year, they push to make a photobook as part of your thesis. In the summer after Jon’s death, I landed on this project,” he explains. The Boys, created by Schatzberg and published by PowerHouse Books, is a direct response to the death, and lives, of his beloved friends.
The Boys is not a memorial, but a celebration of a life well-lived. Combining portraits of Schatzberg and his closest friends from both the 70’s and the modern day, the book travels in between time, forcing two distinct moments to sit side-by-side. Blurry images of parties, laughter, hangout spots and old cars fold out to reveal the faces, and bodies, of these now older men. Years are squashed into paper. The wrinkles and scars collected through the last century all become evidence of the group’s lived experiences . It is collective, yet singular.
“It was important to describe ageing. It’s about mortality, as well as friendship. Showing ourselves shirtless allowed for a certain amount of vulnerability on the part of the sitter – they all have this weird combination of defiance and vulnerability – The guys with the serious scars were almost proud of them. I thought that this was all important,” Shatzberg explains. At the centre of the project, Schatzberg finds a deep sensitivity. Each image captures someone Schatzberg loves, men he has been friends with since his teenage years – trust, ease, and camaraderie can be seen in both the new and old images.
The Boys is a meditation on nostalgia, providing an overwhelming sense of contemplation. Between images both new and old, lost and found, Schatzberg’s friends relive their youth in between the present. Memory is exchanged, and for a second, time stands still.
From The Boys by Rick Schatzberg, published by powerHouse Books.
Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.