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Photographer Shaul Schwarz was born in Israel in 1974. His photographic career began in the Israeli Air Force; after finishing his service he moved on to cover news in Israel and in the West Bank before relocating to New York in 1999. Today Shaul is still based in New York and works as a freelance photographer represented by Reportage/Getty Images . His work has appeared in major international publications such as Newsweek, Time, New York Times Magazine, Geo, Paris Match, Stern, El País, GQ and Marie Claire. His coverage of the conflict in Haiti in 2004 received two World Press Awards; in 2005 he won the highly acclaimed Visa D'or in Perpignan for his work on Settlers from the Gaza Strip; and he recently won the 2008 Robert Capa award given out by the Overseas Press Club.

02.22.11

Life Unplanned

If you have a degree in what field is it? I don’t have a degree. I never went to college.

What was your strangest assignment? Hmmm, there have been so many strange ones it’s hard to choose one. I think for this one I have to go back to my early days in Israel. I was in the office with my best friend and fellow photographer Ilan when we received the info about Israeli soldiers who had been killed in Lebanon. Usually when those situations would happen we would get the address to the family house, go there knock on the door and ask for a picture of the loved one so we could photograph the photo for the next day's paper. That day there were two addresses; as I read them out loud asking Ilan to chose one that he would cover I saw his face shocked with disbelief and he said, “It’s my cousin.” I ended up accompanying him to his family house. When he walked out with a small picture of the young man I photographed it, hugged him and made my way to the next address.

Which photographer would you like to meet? David LaChapelle.

What famous person (living or dead) would you most like to photograph? I know it’s strange and unrealistic but I would love to shoot Osama Bin Laden.

Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? My lavalier mics. I didn’t take them with me a couple of times and paid the price. In today’s world where my camera is not just a still camera anymore, I can never predetermine how I will cover a story so I always want to have the ability to mic a subject.

Is there anything you would not digitally retouch? Sure many things, I am a journalist and I think my job usually is to document a reality not to make it pretty.

From where do your best ideas originate? It can really come from anywhere. From reading the paper, to meeting random people and being in random places. Although, I usually sharpen and decide on my projects in the shower, or just before bed.

How do you overcome a creative block? I don’t have many visual or shooting creative blocks it’s more when I get unhappy or burned-out that I can’t create. So usually to clear that out I just try and take a breath, count to ten and remember that this is what I always wanted to do and that things really could be worse.

Do you have creative pursuits other than photography? Directing would have to be my hidden creative pursuit. I am doing more and more video work as well as ten- and fifteen-minute shorts for many different publications and have directed a feature documentary. But it still always feels like the “other thing” I do and I would love to get an opportunity to focus on a film project sometime.

What music are you listening to right now? I still listen to a lot of Israeli music, I guess it reminds me of home.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I constantly struggle with that one, but I guess that’s the beauty of doing something you love so much that the lines blur and your work almost becomes your life. As hard as I work I never feel like the actual shooting is work because I enjoy it so much. The hardest thing for me is the constant traveling and how unplanned my life has become.

What’s your favorite quote? “If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut” —Albert Einstein

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Photojournalism is not a crusade. You have to truly and wholeheartedly enjoy the ride of being out there and be endlessly curious in order to really last in this profession. Photojournalists are no more important than farmers or nurses, I just enjoy the ride and that’s what pushes me forward.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I knew how hard it is to always recreate yourself. When you start you’re under the impression that you only get one shot or one picture or bit of coverage that everybody sees; as time goes by, though, and you’ve gotten your foot in the door, you understand that it is incredibly demanding to always find a way to keep creating and stay fresh. Then again, that’s also the fun part.