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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


This Article Features Photo Zoom


Katz’s house in Burgundy, France.
“And I love the people involved in the industry,” he continues. “They’re passionate, the food is great and, of course, there’s the wine.”

Perhaps befitting the environment, Katz’s approach is “loose.” Much of what makes it into the frame owes more to “emotional impulse” than a rigidly technical or structured approach. Katz sets out to shoot in the early morning and evening. The shots are evocative of wine production and wine country, but not obvious. “No wine bottles or glasses,” he says. “Those have been done and they’re kind of boring.” By day, he scouts locations and samples the local output. “I’ve learned to be a good wine drinker,” he confesses.


Ripening pinot grapes create a blend of tone and color.
The Books
As he steadily built a portfolio of commercial vineyard work throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Katz decided to take another crack at publishing a book. This time, however, he’d do it himself. Since age 12, Katz has worked in the darkroom. A self-described “control freak,” he’d entrust only his internegs to a lab, printing all his own work. Self-publishing not only assured him that his first book—A Portrait of Napa and Sonoma (1995)—would materialize, but also that the result would be up to snuff. “It was a wonderful experience, but it’s like a construction project: There’s a lot to manage and a lot that can go wrong,” he warns.

Fortunately, for Katz, things went right. A little over a year after Portrait was published, Katz received a call from Simon & Schuster. The result was Vineyard: A Novel (1998), which was followed by The Heart of Burgundy: A Portrait of French Wine Country in 1999.

As much as Katz enjoyed working with a premiere publishing house, it was his next book that pushed him back into self-publishing. On paper, Tuscany and Its Wines (2005) looked as if it would be Katz’s marquee project. In addition to his photos, it was authored by the renowned British wine writer Hugh Johnson and produced by the English publishing house Duncan Baird, with an initial print run of 90,000 copies.

Perhaps befitting the environment, Katz’s approach is “loose.” Much of what makes it into the frame owes more to “emotional impulse” than a rigidly technical or structured approach.

“It was a horrible experience,” Katz says flatly. Unlike Simon & Schuster, with whom Katz attended press checks and retained creative control, he “lost all control” over Tuscany. Even though the resultant book won awards, Katz was deeply unhappy with the results. “The printing was really poor quality, the colors were all blocked up, and I didn’t get to see it until the end.”

 

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