Blog #197   3/2/17

Francesca (underwater on a couch)

A few years ago, I was asked to contribute to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue…a famously plum assignment. Typically, the Swimsuit Issue images are made at remote beach locations in the Caribbean and at other such delightful places on earth. The shoots become wonderful opportunities for the SI editorial staff as well as photographers, their assistants, and models to travel to someplace special. Alas, I was called because of the underwater photography I’ve done (, and, my “underwater studio” which is located in decidedly not terribly exotic Western Connecticut.

Michelle. I am laying on the pool bottom with my camera directed straight up. She is floating on the surface of the water, looking down at me. An assistant, using a water pump with a hose is “raining” onto the pool creating the rippling and irregularities on the pool’s surface.

Plans were made, and the magazine’s crew, stylists, models and hundreds of bathing suits arrived in Connecticut for a few days of summer image-making.My assistants and I were ready; I had worked out a number of basic ideas, giving us a starting point from which I could improvise as the shoot progressed. Some of the models were very facile underwater and a few were not. I therefore suggested that we add another shooting day for models who were not on the SI roster but who I had worked with and knew were at ease underwater and would help me make beautiful images.

I made photographs “on” the water of those models who were not comfortable underwater.

Mallory, an SI model, was very much “one with the water.”

At this shoot I had a few experiences that I’ve never had before and have never had since.

Normally, every shoot I have ever done has been calm, focused, happy, even joyous. The atmosphere I provide is one of generosity and cooperation. Usually, I feel a close bond with any subject with whom I work, and they almost always remark on their positive experience and thank me for it. I have been blessed, I guess, having had so many creative journeys with hundreds of terrific people. In establishing collaborative and considerate relationships, I am always aware of and sensitive to any model’s likes and dislikes.

Noemi (Laying on a beach chair, underwater)

The SI shoot was different. The SI models were chosen by SI, not by me, and I had never worked with nor met any of them prior to the shoot dates. Most of them were terrific. One was very difficult and though I tried to develop a cooperative working relationship, her first response to almost any suggestion was “No.” With her, everything became a struggle. She made certain there would be no collaboration.


I did my best. And, despite her constant resistance, I managed to make a few fairly worthwhile images. Another model, also new to me, was plainly intoxicated. You can only imagine what directing her was like. I’ll not name them for their sake and none of their pictures are included in this blog.

Noemi, “on” the water, I photographed from a cherry-picker, 25 feet over the pool.

And one final annoyance: the SI chief stylist stood right behind me on the pool deck, directing and urging the models to pull in their elbows in order to enhance breast size and form considerable cleavage. I have never had the experience of trying to direct with someone standing behind me “over-directing” my directions, and, in this case, directing models to do things I’d never ask. Fortunately the models did not listen to her as the challenge of working underwater was so daunting for them.

I tell everyone on any shoot that if they have an idea, please just present it to me; I am always open to creative ideas. However, communication must only be between me and the model. A model cannot work with two or more people throwing out directions. It is a frustrating and losing proposition. A basic tenet: any direction needs to come solely through the director, namely, the photographer.

Mallory, “on” the water.

Nevertheless, despite directorial conflicts, I was able to make photographs; the images turned out rather well and were published.

Noemi Underwater

Noemi, under my “waterfall” gizmo.

Sometime later, one of the major SI editors, who has been a friend of mine, said to me, “I would love for you to be a regular contributor to our Swimsuit Issue, but, your images are too creative and artistic. The issue is about sex: tits and ass. It’s a sorry thing.”

That was the last time I was asked to contribute to the Swimsuit Issue.

Yamila (She is on a “hammock,” underwater.
I am on the pool deck photographing through the water’s surface.)

Emilie, a genius underwater; and yes, she is upside-down.

Emilie upright

Even though there were unpleasant aspects to the experience, I still found lots of things I loved. Most of the SI staff were fun to work with, and the other models were just grand.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I’d love another opportunity.



Glitterati Incorporated, the publisher of the Retrospective, Schatz Images: 25 Years is now offering the two- book boxed set at a discount from the original price. The set comes with an 11″x14” print of the buyer’s choice.