On a beautiful, late fall day, at a bench in a Lower East Side park, the sun gently fell on her face as she explained to the Bushwick Daily video crew how she came about to becoming a world class rock’n’roll photographer. “Can we take a short break so that I can faint a little?” I asked the crew because the story of how Katarina Benzova broke into the photography world is pure magic. Once she was just a tall, pretty girl from a small town in Slovakia; today she is the exclusive tour photographer for Guns N’ Roses, and a photographer of, you know, pretty much every single rock’n’roll legend alive from Kiss to Aerosmith to Courtney Love. We’re all in luck because Kat shared some words of wisdom on her gear, mentors, and lots of advice on making it BIG in photography! Read on and watch the interview!
Her mother wanted her to be a figure skater but Kat had other plans. At the age of 14 she left her mountainous hometown for Tokyo on an international modeling contract with Elite Models. She quickly gained international acclaim in the fashion world, appeared on several covers of magazines, and traveled the world. As she traveled, she would take photos just for fun on a little point-and-shoot camera. But the change of fate was in the air.
At the age of 23, she had enough of the modeling world, and decided to returned home. “I was so depressed, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life,” she recalled. “Then a friend of mine called me: Do you want to see a Guns N’ Roses concert in Vienna?” Katarina went to the concert and had the time of her life taking photos of the band performing with her point-and-shoot. She uploaded the pictures to the Facebook the next day, and things unraveled quickly from there. Several band members made the photos their profile pictures and the next thing she knew, Guns N’ Roses’ manager was scheduling a meeting for her with Axl Rose to discuss a possible collaboration.
Kat was offered to try out as a photographer at their next concert in Spain, so a friend of hers landed her a DSLR camera for the tryout and explained some basic things. Kat had never used a DSLR before but, as they say, fortune favors the bold. Kat is obviously a very quick learner because she excelled at her Spanish tryout and was offered a dream contract to tour with the legendary band. That was three years ago…
This all sounds pretty easy but how did she learn to use a professional camera without going to photography school? “I was asking people, and I was googling everything. Today you can learn almost everything on the Internet,” Katarina responded humbly yet confidently. And she hasn’t done bad at all. Her dramatic, signature black and white portraits capture legendary musicians on the stage, yet they are gentle and intimate. Katarina says she has the ability to capture the moment of when a musician is performing – lost in the zone, in the Now – to feel what’s happening inside of the artist.
Bushwick Lens is an original Bushwick Daily interview video series of six episodes. In each episode we interview a photographer or cinematographer about his/her career, life and advice to those new to the industry with the goal to inspire. Re-watch the episodes with Ivan Abel, cinematographer for Depeche Mode; Casey Kelbaugh, photographer for the New York Times or Nicky Digital, likely the most famous NYC night life photographer.
Bushwick Lens was made possible thanks to CSI Rentals, a professional photo and video equipment rental with locations in Manhattan–and, as of recently, also in Bushwick!
Produced by: Bushwick Daily & CSI Rentals
Directed by: Katarina Hybenova & Logan Seaman
Camera by: Ashley Maas & Katarina Hybenova
Edited by: Logan Seaman