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 the Official 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."
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 International Center for PHotography, 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.