Robert Farber: We're in New York with Ryszard Horowitz. I've known his work for years and he's done the most unique, unusual, and beautiful, arresting images that I never knew how they were done. And this is before the days of knowing what computers could possibly do, or before there were even programs to create such special effects. The images that I've seen, really, are copied but only on a computer. Ryszard, first let me welcome you and ask you how did you get started with photography in the first place?
Ryszard Horowitz: Well, I became interested in photography when I was a small child, at maybe 10, 11, or 12. I got hold of my first camera which was very simple, very primitive. At that time I was already heavily engaged in studying art because I wanted to excel as a painter, as a designer. Photography almost came along as a side interest; it was not until I was in my twenties that I devoted full time to it.
Robert Farber: When you first started, when you really got involved with photography in your 20s, did you get that started in New York, or was that in Europe, or where were you at that point?
Ryszard Horowitz: I had been taking photographs, as I said, for most of my life, I was born in Poland, and my first photo exhibition took place in my hometown of Cracow when I was in my teen, but professionally I came into photography after arriving here in New York ? Initially I worked in advertising design, graphic artist, and when I was in my early 20s usually I worked as a designer or assistant to many great photographers. I worked with Richard Avadon and Arnold Newman, among others. The moment I found the right opportunity to open my own independent studio, I jumped into it with some help from my friends, as they say. And I stayed with it until now.
Robert Farber: The people you assisted, that you worked with in the beginning, whether it was Avadon and Newman, the work is so much different than the work that you do, so when did that kind of work evolve that you are doing today and that you have done for a number of years?
Ryszard Horowitz: This work is very much a reflection of my insides. Before I began to do my own work, I had to master everything else, and I took care learning about the past, about the present, and I went through every possible style, if you will, and every possible tool available to me before I came to the conclusion that it was time to start my own work.
Robert Farber: And the work that you're doing now, that you see only being possibly done on a computer, let me just ask you a direct question: like I look at some of these images with the swirling water, the things that were done (we can't get into great detail here how you do it), but how did you ever do that?
Ryszard Horowitz: You see, I have to make a very strong point that I'm a photographer. I'm not a computer designer or computer artist, however you call it. Whenever I can capture something photographically, I do it. Frequently, it involves inventiveness, shall we say, and certain know-how, and that's why years of working in multi-imagery environment prior to attempting to assemble pictures digitally, I learn by making mistakes, trial and error, how to photograph different objects: small, large, still, moving, etc. And to photograph them in such a way that they could be put in different contexts, because my life interest has been to photograph and see and create "photographic images" without actually capturing nature as we see it, as we exepect to see it.
Robert Farber: Ryszard, at what point in your career did you actually start using a computer in order to composite your images or to continue from what you were doing earlier on without a computer?
Ryszard Horowitz: I got involved with computers a long long time ago. I was introduced to a computer for the first time maybe 15 years ago, this is like ancient history when it comes to digital work. The moment I saw it, I sensed tremendous excitement, an understanding that this was a perfect tool for me to get involved with. It became part of my environment in the most calm, unusual, smooth way. Everything that I had learned working in a dark room, or with a camera, or doing multi-image composition became self-evident working with a computer: less chemistry, less darkroom, less time wasted waiting for film to be processed, etc. One thing that my past experience left me with was a tremendous respect and appreciation for traditional photography. And because of that, as I said before, I tried to do as much as I can photographically prior to attempting to assemble or alter anything digitally.
Robert Farber: I saw in one of your lectures with a film you did a show behind the scenes and how you did the things. Maybe you assembled them later, different composites to create an image, but it certainly wasn't a copmuter manipulation. It was a combination of some unusual things you were doing in the studio. So it seems like you really didn't get into computer manipulation or image manipulation--well not at that point--did you at any point after that?
Ryszard Horowitz: I don't really like the expression "digital manipulation". I use a computer to assemble and to merge, seamlessly, images together. I do not rely that heavily on synthetic 3D imaging in my work, although I attempted to include some 3D in my photographic efforts. I'm foremost a photographer and not a computer designer as such, and I like to keep my final effect, my final result, as closely related or resembling photographic imagery as possible.
Robert Farber: So actually what you're saying is that your images are really just composited and put together on the computer as opposed to being manipulated or manufactured on a computer--you're manufacturing more as a photographer. . .
Ryszard Horowitz: That is correct. I try to create effects photographically. They are assembled on a computer, they are color ? on a computer, adjusted on a computer, but they are not created by using synthetic 3D software.
Robert Farber: If our members of the internet workshop are interested in getting involved in the type of work that you do, what is the best way for them to study your work, or for them to look into education, or for students out there that are really interested in getting involved in this type of thing? And don't forget, whoever is listening to this, that this type of thing is not computer or photo manipulation. . .
Ryszard Horowitz: I would truly recommend to go to museums, read lots of books, rather than studying me. One can go to the ? great museum or open any great book about art because I'm a very strong believer in continuity in the creative process, rather than jumping, emulating something that is very fashionable right now and will outmoded tomoroow. It's much better to build one's ? on very solid, great art of the past because everything that's being done in photography is extremely, closely related to painting.
Robert Farber: I want to ask you about--I know you're really into digital printing, the desktop darkroom type of concept the same way that I am--and I know you're assembling, or working on something for an exhibition. Can you tell me more about that, or what your plans are for it?
Ryszard Horowitz: For the first time in my life I became extremely excited about possibility of desktop printing. In the past, my work, introduced through digital media, never had the kind of texture, the kind of detail that I would hope to achieve. Now it's all possible, it's ? I"m very pleased. As far as my future interests are concerned, next year in the 2000 I'm going to have a major retrospect exhibition in my home town of Cracow, Poland. Cracow as named by ? one of the cultural capitals of Europe, and my exhibition is going to be part of a gigantic effort of various art, music, photography, theater exhibitions that are going to take place over there.
Robert Farber: Is this show going to be done all in digital prints?
Ryszard Horowitz: Well, I would like to. I am so, right now, enchanted and happy about the way my work appears in that media, but I'm looking forward, or attempt at least to show it all in digital form, in form of various size prints from 8 X 10 to maybe 40 X 60 or larger.
Robert Farber: Isn't it amazing the jump in the technology just from a year ago when we were printing out from computers as compared to the way they are now?
Ryszard Horowitz: I remember about 15 years ago I attempted for the first time to manipulate my photographic image, and I ask for some kind of print output. It was not possible. The only way you could do it was by going from a very small file to something that resembled a photographic print that was not really of great quality and couldn't be bigger than 8 X 10. So when I talk about ancient history--and things change so rapidly--what's marvelous is that people who design hardware and software are beginning to cater to people like ourselves and they sense the need for it in the market the necessity to produce that. And very soon we'll have digital cameras, etc. I feel very optimistic as far as the entire switch from traditional to digital is concerned.
Robert Farber: It's funny, besides only seeing your work in print or in this lecture hall and so forth, I hadn't seen it until just a little while ago when you showed me some of the prints you were getting from the InkJet printer and the quality of it. I was really so impressed by it that that's why I'm mentioning it now. I also want to ask you as far as the show you're going to be doing in Poland, I know from your background--and it's funny because for years I've known your work and even when I was doing the ? folios with fashion--that was really the first time I started getting familiar with the creative director ? He showed me a catolog he just did--I think it was with some perfume bottles--and I said, 'Geez, this is great, the way this is done is really beautiful.' So I see, and this is a good example for photographers, to know how you can take something you do as a fine art and apply it commercially.
Ryszard Horowitz: Yes, I'm a strong believer in interaction between my own personal interests and needs of my clients. All my life I try to combine them both, and please myself as well as please others.
Robert Farber: I'm sure you are pleasing others because I love looking at your work, and I'm just wondering how the hell you do it. Another thing too that is really funny too, after seeing your work and knowing you for years, I was watching the movie Schindler's list, and at the end who do I see walking out there as one of the people who had that experience in life but Ryszard Horowitz, and can you just tell me some--that really threw me off.
Ryszard Horowitz: Well, being born in Poland, at the brink of WWII, unfortunately this horrible experience wouldn't spare me. Fortunately for me and part of my family we were under the wings of Oscar Schindler, and that's why I appear in Spielberg's movie which was based on the book by Tom Mc?Kinley called Schindler, which is the story of my family, my friends, and people very close to me.
Robert Farber: How old were you when that happened?
Ryszard Horowitz: When I was liberated I was six years old.
Robert Farber: With all this background and your coming from the art background and then getting into photography, what do you think is the best way today (of course we all have our different stories and our different ways that we got started) if you were starting over, if you were a young photographer or a photographer who wanted to redirect their career, if you had a portrait studio somewhere, do you think you have to come to New York, do you have to go to big city? What would be the best advice you could give someone if you were going to start off today building you career?
Ryszard Horowitz: My feeling is that you have to absorb as much education as possible. All the media related to photography, as we know, music, cinema, literature--everything enhances ones ability to perceive and project visual ideas. And I would say if you were in a small town you have access to great libraries, you have access to video tape, internet, and right now you can visit all the greatest museums on the internet--although I don't subscribe to the idea that what you see on the internet is the same as ones you can put your finger on it. Though when I was growing up in Communist Poland, I had very limited access to original art and I was learning by looking through whatever productions of great paintings and artworks available to us. So of course it's great to be in New York, it's great to be next to ? or the Louvre, but in a small town at any time, under any circumstances, if you have the drive, the intelligence, and the perserverance, you can learn as much as you can.
Robert Farber: With all of this new technology and digital imaging, do you think that this new technology would have changed your path if you were starting your career today?
Ryszard Horowitz: Probably. It's hard to know, but one word of caution that I want to get across is to be very careful and sensitive how you treat this technology. It's very powerful, it's very overwhelming. It can frequently offer you tremendous shortcuts and very superficial grade effects that are really not your own, that are activated or result of somebody's software design, and because I travel so much all over the world, I notice one thing that makes me very concerned, and that is that, regardless of the way I am, work begins to look very much alike. Meaning that this technology is becoming extremely overpowering to many people. I'd much rather think of creating from within and using electronic media as a tool as opposed to the end in itself.
Ryszard Horowitz: As I said, it's a very poweful, great technology that enables you to capture images instantly, especially if you deal with digital cameras. You can look at your pictures instantaneously, you can make corrections, and you can get just the right expression, the right attitude out of your model. As far as any further manipulations, if interested, you can shoot against blue screen or whatever other technique you may think of and place your models, your clients, into any environment you wish.
Robert Farber: So you could do a bridal portrait or something else out in the Grand Canyon and you don't have to leave. But this is without it looking tacky, where it really looks like you're really there. It could be done really perfectly, I imagine. . .
Ryszard Horowitz: Yes, but most of all, it's a phenomenal retouching tool, as we all know. You can make your client, your models as beautiful as possible. It goes without saying that it's a powerful, exciting tool.
Robert Farber: As far as your fine art work, how involved are you with exhibitions besides the one you mention, that ? you're going to have the polling or your limited edition gallery work?
Ryszard Horowitz: Well I've been exhibiting all over the world and selling to private collectors and I've exhibited all over Europe and the Far East. Part of my interest is to sell my work as "art"
Robert Farber: As long as you're mentioning that, let me ask you, if someone was interested in finding out more about the purchase of your work, where would they look or who would they get in touch with?
Ryszard Horowitz: Right now I'm in the process of developing my own website. For the time being, all you have to do is go to a search engine and punch in my name: R-Y-S-Z-A-R-D Horowitz. And you end up seeing lots of pictures, and you find a description of my book that deals with my life and my work
Robert Farber: Are there any particular titles or anything else you want to mention? Or could you give your email address if someone wanted to contact you...?
Ryszard Horowitz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Farber: Ryszard, I want to thank you very much and I appreciate your talents and I appreciate you being here and doing this for our internet photo workshop. It's great to see you and share this with you. Thank you.
Ryszard Horowitz: Thank you.
Note: The above is a transcript of Robert Farber's interview with Ryszard Horowitz. It may have undergone some editing for improved readibility. You may also wish--or prefer--to listen to the actual original interview while viewing some of Mr. Horowitz's images.