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Monday, August 10, 2009

Andy Katz: Oenophilia

With his deep-rooted connection to wine country and the vineyard lifestyle, Andy Katz has staked out a successful niche capturing all aspects of these romanticized and idyllic locales


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Idyllic settings abound in wine country, like this quaint scenic at the Mumm Napa Winery in Rutherford, Calif.
Like most artistic journeys, his wasn’t a straight line, but the frequent intersection of opportunity and ambition. Katz arrived at vineyard photography by way of album art by way of commercial ski photography. There were times, he admits, when he was in “bad shape” financially, struggling as many do to live the dream.

Katz spent two years at the Art Center College of Design in California before dropping out. “It was just the same teachers going over the same material,” says Katz. Confident he could acquire the needed skills in the real world, Katz moved to Colorado, shooting “absolutely anything that came my way—skis, black boxes, executives at their desks. The only jobs I didn’t take were weddings and bar mitzvahs.”

In 1978, he took a series of photographs for UNICEF documenting children around the world. “I really thought that was going to be my first book,” he admits. It was not. Despite shopping it around to numerous publishers, Katz couldn’t find any takers. “When that failed, I was crushed. It was really frustrating. I was young and rejected.”


South America has been a popular source for excellent vintages. Here, a woman gathers flowers for the market in Cuenca, Ecuador
Katz continued to plug away, taking commercial work where he could find it. It was in Colorado that Katz connected with the popular folk musician Dan Fogelberg. Katz shot the cover for Fogelberg’s 1977 platinum album Nether Lands and remained friends with the musician until he died in December 2007. He proceeded to shoot a variety of album covers for acts like The Doobie Brothers. “A few of my photographs were on albums that sold in the millions of copies,” says Katz. “Most were on albums that sold about, oh, forty.”

Yet it was a job for a Colorado restaurateur who was relocating from Boulder to Vale that took Katz to Napa Valley and Sonoma, and propelled him into the world of wine. “When I brought him back my shots, he flipped out,” recalls Katz. “He was very connected in the wine industry and he urged me to contact vineyards for work.”

As jobs go, you could do much worse than wine country. “I love vineyards; I think they’re absolutely gorgeous,” says Katz. While he certainly captures the essence of wine country—the vines, the grapes, the production—Katz says he likes to keep the definition as expansive as possible. “If I see something interesting, even if it’s not strictly in the vineyard or directly related to wine but in wine country, I’ll shoot it. It’s valid. There’s a lot of interesting architecture around vineyards, some of it very old.

 

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