Legs spread over an agitated gator; thirty-six-year-old Colby Katz lets her adrenaline take control. “I was total gator bait,” nonchalantly reflects the barely five-foot documentary photographer who has shot for some of the biggest names in print media including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, ESPN, and Newsweek. Straddling airboats over angry wildlife in the murky swamps of the Florida Everglades typifies her ballsy and passionate approach. Katz is a photographer’s photographer who uses peril as a motivator while capturing her desired shots. “Its like I just blackout.” She admits half-joking, half-serious when discussing her subconscious drive. Although slight in physicality, the petit visionary has a gutsy consistency of locking in on some of the most intriguing images ranging from the shocking to the sublime and delivering them with sophistication and humanity. After receiving her BFA in photography from the renowned NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Katz returned to her South Florida homeland where she has been providing a birds-eye view into some of the quirkiest and most taboo realms ranging from voodoo worship and child pageantry to rabbit hunting and post mortem replicas. Her most recent work delves into the lives and personal spaces of children in the child modeling industry. From a uniquely personal perspective, Katz concedes, “I think that having been both a child model and participant in beauty pageants helps me to relate to the girls in a way that other photographers might not.” Continuing she candidly admits, “I’m attracted to things I know and can understand. It’s kind of chicken but it’s the truth.”
Beyond normal comprehension and certainly anything but “chicken” is her series on illegal “Backyard Fighting.” One of her images documents the gruesome aftermath of a brother who has been catapulted by his sibling off of a residential rooftop into a deliberately arranged glass plate table. The photograph of the dazed and bloodied man is undeniably horrific yet perversely intriguing at the same time. Abandoning her maternal instincts, Katz’s captures a delicate and skillful blend of raw and unassuming, which transcends her images and provides an arguably greater service, exquisite reportage. She has been recognized by Photo District News as one of the top emerging photographers and has been exhibited in galleries around the world to include the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Nederlands Fotomuseum. At the end of 2011 her work was exhibited along side that of Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, Lorna Simpson, Diane Arbus, and Nan Goldin in an all female artist exhibition in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale titled Re-Framing the Feminine. When asked about her inspirations she quickly offers the name of friend and mentor Maggie Steber. A Leica Medal of Excellence winner, Steber was recognized with an Ernst Haas grant and the Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant for Journalistic Exploration of a Subject for her work in Haiti, and is the former Director of Photography and Assistant Managing Editor of the Features department at the Miami Herald and a regular contributor to National Geographic. Colby Katz is teaching and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Miami.