From creator of poetic images to compelling storyteller, Jerry Schatzberg has excelled in both the realms of photography and filmmaking. Published in Vogue, McCall’s, Esquire, Glamour, and Life in the 1960s, Schatzberg captured intimate portraits of the generation’s most notable artists, celebrities and thinkers (from Bob Dylan to Robert Rauschenberg), and he pushed on in the 1970s to the medium of film and participated in the renaissance of American cinema, directing films such as Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970), The Panic in Needle Park (1971), SCARECROW (1973) and Reunion (1989).
Born in the Bronx, New York, Schatzberg began his career in fashion photography, working as assistant to Bill Helburn from 1954 to 1956 before he became a freelance photographer. His fashion photography was featured in numerous publications, and he captured some of the most iconic celebrity portraits of the 1960s. His subjects included Francis Ford Coppola, Andy Warhol, Arlo Guthrie, Roman Polanski, Fidel Castro, Milos Forman, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and The Rolling Stones. His twenty years of experience as a photographer would later be reflected in his films, as he could capture intimate performances from actors on camera.
After directing some TV commercials, Jerry Schatzberg made his debut as a film director in 1970 with Puzzle of a Downfall Child, the story of a fashion model in the midst of a mental breakdown, starring Faye Dunaway. Schatzberg scored with his second directorial effort: the gripping, finely acted The Panic in Needle Park, a bleak study of heroin addiction starring Al Pacino. Pacino costarred with Gene Hackman in his next film, SCARECROW, a moody tale of two drifters, which in many ways is an apotheosis of ‘70s alienation and confusion. Schatzberg won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with SCARECROW. He continued his directing career with films such as Sweet Revenge (1976) starring Stockard Channing, The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) starring Alan Alda, Barbara Harris and Meryl Streep, Honeysuckle Rose (1980) starring Willie Nelson, and Street Smart (1987) starring Christopher Reeve, Kathy Baker and Morgan Freeman. His 1989 film Reunion, about an elderly Jewish man who returns to Germany to find his childhood friend, achieved great international success and a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes.