When two of his oldest friends died unexpectedly, Rick Schatzberg (born 1954) turned to photography to cope with his grief. He spent the next year and a half photographing his remaining group of a dozen men who have been close since early childhood. Now in their 67th year, “The Boys,” as they call themselves, grew up together in the 1950s in post-war Long Island, New York.
Conceived from the outset as a photo book, Schatzberg collected old seventies snapshots that tell the story of The Boys’ shared history and used them to introduce each individual as they are today. He paired the vintage photos with contemporary large-format portraits which connect the boy to the man. Mixed in with the images are twelve chapters of moving, poetic text in which Schatzberg addresses friendship, aging, loss, and memory as the group arrives at the brink of old age. In the final stages of preparation for the book, two more of The Boys died. Now they are ten.The Boys is a beautiful, heart-rending memoir in pictures and words that juxtaposes elements of place, personal history and identity to poignantly capture male friendship over time. The bond between the boys is evident both in the old photographs to the way each subject reveals himself to the camera today. Many of the men were brave enough to remove their shirts for Schatzberg. The machismo exhibited during the men’s fun-loving youth has evolved into something more reflective and meditative in Schatzberg’s revelatory portraits.
Noted photographer Elinor Carucci brings a female perspective to the work. “The Boys, beautifully and honestly, brings me into the intimacy and vulnerability of guys, of manhood, of the friendship of men, sometimes a mystery to me, a woman. And to the bittersweet and complex later-in-life feelings and stories, of growing older but also closer, of losing but gaining and learning, the stories of men, and of all of us.”
In his closing essay, ‘On Rick Schatzberg’s The Boys’, noted novelist Rick Moody writes about the contemporary portraits of the men: “ … photos of creaky, decaying, older white men struggling for dignity are perhaps the hardest photos to look at now. There is no audience, in the strictest sense, for these images, if audience is determined by fashion or by the merchandising demographics of the present. But that’s exactly what makes this book terribly affecting. The relationship of Schatzberg’s gaze to his subjects is never less than loving, never less than intimate, but it is also, fair to say, remorseless. In this, I think, the book tells us a lot about how one thinks about one’s own past.”
In the book’s opening chapter Schatzberg elucidates: “As I observe my friends, I detect an unpredictable shift in spirit that appears at the threshold of old age. Small compulsions are amplified in proportion to a world grown stranger. We measure patterns of the past. We survey a new landscape where the companions of our youth grow fewer and more precious. Humor is our antidote; when we’re together we’re still a bunch of stand-up comics. Privately, we explore a deeper intensity.”
“Rick Schatzberg has achieved something truly remarkable. The Boys renews my faith not just in the photobook, but in the ability to describe something new and profound in one’s later years.” — Alec Soth, Photographer
“We enter The Boys through a suburban backyard gate, but within moments Rick Schatzberg positions his viewer front and center towards the meaning of life and friendship. Schatzberg’s intimate book tenderly fuses the past and present through a keen use of archival imagery, contemporary portraiture, and original writing. The Boys transcends the personal narrative and becomes an elegy for time’s passing and all that we hold dear.” — Richard Renaldi, Photographer
Photographs and text by Rick Schatzberg
With an Essay by Rick Moody
Hardcover, 7-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches
144 pages (including 12 gatefolds)
ISBN: 978-1-57687-963-4, $50.00 US/ $70.00 CAN