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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

A sunrise lights up fields in Sonoma, Calif. A Sony Artisan Of Imaging, Katz was one of the first to test the full-frame Sony A900, and he uses Sony D-SLRs in his stunning vineyard photography.
The experience left such a bad taste in his mouth that Katz returned to self-publishing. “As a business model, self-publishing really depends on distribution to make it work because you don’t want hundreds of copies of your book in the basement,” he observes. “You have to find the right distributor. Yet despite the risks, it can be rewarding. In addition to the validation, books have a tendency to discipline your work. I create assignments for myself and know the end result of the assignment is a book.”

After producing Robert Mondavi Winery (2002) and Concannon: The First One Hundred and Twenty-Five Years (2006), Katz’s career took another self-imposed turn. “I was contacted to do some work for New Zealand wineries, and I thought, ‘Why limit myself to wine?’”

Eager not to be cast as simply a “wine photographer,” Katz enlarged the project. “I gave myself very loose parameters: no people, only landscapes,” he says. For one month, he traveled the length and breadth of New Zealand in a rented camper with a simple mandate: “Take pretty pictures.”

Carneros, near San Francisco, is renowned for its chardonnays, pinot noirs and sparkling wines.

The result was New Zealand: Sea, Earth, Sky (2006). In addition to its gripping vistas, the book marked Katz’s first foray into digital photography as he traded in his Contax 645 and Mamiya RZ for the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. As we spoke, Katz was preparing to replace his Canon with Sony’s A900 full-frame “flagship” Alpha DSLR.

In Print
No summation of Katz’s work would be complete without reference to his prints. The same desire to control his output that kept him in the darkroom pushed Katz, in 1999, into the world of fine-art inkjet printing.

His first printer was the 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro 10000. “My black-and-whites were unacceptable, but I really liked the color prints,” he says. Katz is now using the 44-inch wide-format HP Designjet Z3100 in his studio. At first, some galleries would raise an eyebrow at a photographer offering his own editions from an inkjet printer. “Once I explained to them that the images they’re about to receive can last for 200 years, they got it,” adds Katz. “Galleries have become a lot more accepting of fine-art photographers who print their own work. The big knock with inkjet was that you didn’t get your hands dirty. But I like not having to smell chemicals all day.”


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