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The Boys

Afterword by Rick Moody

When two old friends died unexpectedly, Rick Schatzberg spent the next two years photographing the remaining group of a dozen men. Now in their 67th year, they have been close since early childhood. Schatzberg collected vintage photos that tell the story of this shared history and uses them to introduce each individual as they are today. These are paired with large-format portraits which connect the boy to the man. Mixing in text with these images, Schatzberg depicts friendship, aging, loss, and memory as the group arrives at the threshold of old age. 

The Boys juxtaposes elements of place, personal history, and identity. The people and locale described are a specific product of the mid-20th-century suburban American landscape, but the book’s themes are radically universal.
 

Rick Schatzberg is a photographer and author based in Norfolk, CT and Brooklyn, NY.  His first monograph, Twenty Two North, was awarded first prize at Australia’s Ballarat Foto International Biennale in 2015. He holds an MFA in photography from the University of Hartford.

"Schatzberg’s portraits are both poetic and forensic – and, in their unflinching depiction of physical ageing, a riposte to a culture that is more often defined by the youth-fixated values of fashion and commerce. Perhaps for these very reasons, they seem defiant as well as poignant...Intriguingly, these formal portraits are literally embedded in the book, concealed behind gatefolds that have to be opened out. This makes them appear almost clandestine, but it also dramatically disrupts the diaristic flow of the snapshots, which convey an early 1970s suburban America that seems like a continuation of the hippy 60s – long hair, check shirts, denim and dope. Throughout, Schatzberg’s often incisive prose undercuts the idyll.”  

 

– Sean O’Hagan,, The Guardian

“The Boys is a genius book, profoundly moving in the way it holds up past and present simultaneously and lets us consider them both in the same moment …”

– W. Scott Olsen, Frames

“Schatzberg’s photography both acknowledges and undermines the fragile notion of masculinity and what a man should be: his subjects often stand defiant, yet their relative dotage is highlighted in sharp relief to shots of them in their prime.”

 

– Emily Gosling, Elephant

“[The Boys] is a monument and tribute to an often neglected species – the aging male. The so-called ‘gaze’ of the male looking back upon his particular ‘old times’ marked by youthful feelings of invincibility and permanency is now tinged heavily with the realization of finiteness.”

 

– Gerhard Clausing, PhotoBook Journal

“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

“Part memoir, part meditation and part photobook, The Boys weaves together memories, snapshots, correspondence and recent portraiture, to tenderly create a narrative about enduring friendships and what it means to be human.”

 

– Mary Frey, photographer

“We enter The Boys through a suburban back yard 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

“Rick Schatzberg’s 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.”

 

– Elinor Carucci, photographer

“Rick Schatzberg’s poignant photographs with feeling prose makes one of the most loving works I've seen on aging. This is not just white men on Long Island growing older. It's us, too, with (apparently) youthful insouciance face to face with the bodily facts of getting older.”

 

– Nell Irvin Painter, historian and author of The History of White People and Old in Art School

“A reckoning with Time, as German philosophy might say, is a reckoning with Non-Being, and in the same way that Mike Disfarmer’s photos build in a sense of what they will mean later on, Schatzberg’s intimate and honest photos of these men are not only about what they will mean now, but also about what they will mean later.  To live in this kind of expectation, the kind that speaks of the end-stages of aging in the midst of aging, is to be unflinching. Schatzberg’s sequence does exactly this, and in the text, which mirrors the high and low of the images in being by turns poetical and diaristic, formal and informal, literary and colloquial, he has created his eulogy for both a youth long gone, and for the deaths of friends and loved ones yet to happen, his own included.” 

– Rick Moody, author, from the afterword, “On Rick Schatzberg’s The Boys”