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Roy Schatt

Roy Schatt was a dedicated photographer for 60 years, who captured legendary individuals and historic moments. 

Utilizing his 'method' approach and use of only natural light, Roy was committed to a pure form of photography. He developed all his photographs in his 33rd Street darkroom, with a focus on the balance of light. His inspiration from the photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, provided him with a skilled and experienced understanding of the camera as a means to achieve much more than 'documentation', but a meaningful art form translated into a photograph. His study of art, theatre, writing and history were the building blocks of his own photographic art. Below is a small review of the Roy Schatt Estate archive of photographs:

James Dean and the 'Torn Sweater' Series (1954-55)

Schatt developed a remarkable friendship with James Dean. As a fellow actor and with a great interest in photography, Dean formed a special bond with Schatt and wanted to learn art from him. About the beginning of their relationship, Schatt states "He was a squinty schlump of a person all bent over. Then Dean suddenly got up and this ugly person became a dream, an Adonis who started to dance around the room. It was a transition I couldn't believe. (…) During our first meeting Jim asked me if I would shoot him, not as a regular session, but to document his activities. It soon developed that he wanted to shoot me as well, so we began classes."

During the course of their yearlong friendship cut short by Dean's tragic death, Schatt captured the iconic “Torn Sweater” series portraits, as well as other images of Dean in personal moments playing the bongos at a party, pretending to steal candy from a newsstand or practicing the art of photography using Schatt and actor friends as his subject.

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The Actors Studio, New York City (1950s - 1960s)

During the 50s, Roy Schatt lived in Greenwich Village, the vibrant artistic epicenter of the epoch, and befriended creative personalities. Schatt's forte in portrait photography and his sensibility as an actor allowed him to capture the most genuine, even vulnerable, emotions of his subjects. Famed director Lee Strasberg recognized his caliber as a photographer and named Schatt the Official Photographer of the Actor's Studio.

Schatt's estate includes never before seen photographs of members of The Actors Studio during the 1950's as well as many other images of personalities active in the New York theatrical community, such as Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Geraldine Page, Tennessee Williams, Steve McQueen, Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Joanne Woodward, Martin Landau, Arthur Miller, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Ben Gazzara, Maureen Stapleton and many other creative individuals (John Cassavetes, Dorothy Parker, Brendan Behan, Lillian Hellman, Lorne Greene, Andy Griffith, Bud Schulberg, William Saroyan and Marlene Dietrich).

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The Newport Jazz Festival (1955-57)

Schatt's estate includes never before seen photographs of the Newport Jazz Festival, founded in 1954 by Elaine Lorrilard.


Subjects include Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gilespie, Mahalia Jackson, Ethel Waters, Eartha Kitt, Muriel Rahn, Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Thelma Middleton, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Gerry Mulligan, Pee Wee Russell, Paul Desmond, Jo Jones, Billy Strayhorn Taylor

Long John Nebel & The Tonight Show (1961-78)

Roy Schatt documented the famous "Long John Nebel & The Tonight Show" for over 17 years. WOR, one of New York's leading radio stations, faced poor ratings when Nebel proposed an interview show in 1954. Within a few months Nebel was getting not only high ratings but also  press attention from throughout the United States for the radio program, which was broadcast over half of the US territory.

Subjects include Malcolm X, Jackie Vernon, Jacqueline Susann, Pat Boone, Jean Shepherd, John Birch, Hal Holbrook, Don Adams, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Johnny Carson, Barry Farber, Big Wilson.


The John Nebel archive is currently held at Syracuse University. The archive includes a selection of historic photos by Roy Schatt. 

Additional Photography (1930s - 2000s)


In addition to Roy Schatt’s most famous series of photography, he has photographed numerous other events, places, paid assignments, and notable people/personalities.


Events: The World's Fair, An Anti-Castro Riot, Night Nick's Jazz, The Jazz Festival at Loew’s, On Set of “We the People,” Bernardo Segal’s Party, Rose Tattoo Opening Party, Christmas at Lord & Taylor, Night Reizini/Limelights, The JFK Funeral Procession;


Places: New York, Washington Square Park, Grand Central Station, the Limelight, Fire Island, Paris, London;


Notable People/Personalities: Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Rod Steiger, Teri & Brooke Sheilds, Stiller & Meara, Roy & Walter Overton, Monroe & Michael Gazzo, Jackie Vernon, Angela Lansbury, Helena Rubenstein with her Picasso Paintings, Ruby Dee, Jo Can Fleet, Lenny Rosenman, Michele Morgan, Jeff Bridges.