Meet Rock Photographer Kat Benzova
Apparently it is possible to be downright adorable and totally badass at the exact same time—just look at Kat Benzova and you'll be hooked. In a male dominated industry she is one of the few female rock photographers who made it to the top in the business these days.
The Slovakia-native shot the biggest names in Rock'n'Roll, such as Keith Richards, Kiss and Guns'n'Roses.
When the blonde beauty is not touring she's supporting the charity foundation 'Animal Asia', a project devoted to end bear cruelty. Last year she shot and co-produced their campaign "Let A Bear Sh*t In The Woods" where she included a lot of her Rock'n'Roll friends to raise awareness of the project.
We caught up with Kat recently to get the deets on how she landed her first gig, her future plans and some funny anecdotes from life on the road.
When did you start and what did get you into photography?
I started to take photos about 12 years ago. I used to be a model and traveled the world since I was 14 years old and the only way to show my family all the places I visited was through photographs ( this is during Nokia brick time:), there were no phone cameras, laptops or access to internet). I was always surrounded by photographers so I started to learn the craft by watching how they worked during photoshoots. I still couldn't decide which photography route I was going to take so I was taking photos of everything: models, nature, abstracts, etc. - until one day when I was able to take photos of a Guns N’ Roses concert. I knew right away that this is what I wanted to do: photograph music. Then it all happened really quickly. They liked my photos, gave me a try out for a few shows, I got the job and I was in the business. Then I started to shoot more bands, worked on different projects and my passion became my job. I was lucky, but I worked hard to get better and better in my craft every day.
Do you have any funny anecdotes you had photographing?
There are so many. One of them is when I was photographing Aerosmith during their Australian tour. I was on stage, right in front of Steven's and Joe's microphone, doing some close up shots, turning my back to the audience. Then suddenly in the corner of my eye I saw my butt crack on the huge concert screens on stage. When I turned around I found out that I just got into the camera guy's way who was trying to get the same shot as I did:) Lesson learned, watch out where you squad and don't get into anyone's way :) Another one is from my first tour with Guns N’ Roses. I was just learning the dynamics of the show and my way around the stage. One day during the show I found myself a spot next to the drummer to get the perfect photo of the stage, when I suddenly heard the pyro-technician screaming and running towards me. He pushed me to the floor as I found out I was sitting on a pyro box full of fireworks that were just about to explode:) I learned my lesson really quickly:)
You've toured with the biggest names in the music industry. How did you land your first job on the road?
My first job was with Guns N’ Roses in 2010. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. I went to see their concert in Vienna, Austria. We had VIP and backstage passes so I was able to shoot the show with my pocket camera from the side stage. When I got home I edited the photos and posted them on Facebook. They saw them and invited me to another show that was close by in Prague. After the show I talked to Axl and found out they were looking for a photographer. They gave me a try out of shooting two shows in Spain. I got the gig and stayed until the end of their European tour. Then I started to shoot more bands, building my portfolio which was leading to more gigs and projects.
Last year you shot and co-produced the campaign "Animal Asia" against cruelty to animals. Could you tell us a bit more about this project:
That was one of the coolest projects I have ever worked on. Me and my two friends put our heads together and came out with an idea of making a campaign against animal cruelty in a way that people wouldn't turn their faces away as most of those campaigns can be pretty visual. We wanted to create something that people want to share to increase the chances of getting money to support the animals. As our director Shaina Danziger worked with Animals Asia in the past we wanted to help them to support their running ‘Let The Bear Sh*t In The Woods’ campaign as most of the people don't know about Moon Bears and bear bile farming in Asia. It's a horrifying practice where they extract bile out of living bears that are locked in cages their entire life. The bile is then used in cosmetics. That needs to be stopped! We were able to get amazing celebrities to support us and be part of the campaign such as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Moby, Steve O from Jackass and Matt Lucas. Hopefully the support continues growing so Animals Asia can use the money to turn all the bile farms into sanctuaries and keep all the moon bears happy:) If you want to support please check out their website: http://www.bearinthewoods.org
Who are your biggest inspirations for your work?
I get inspired by everything around me. From nature, travel, people, emotions, movements, etc. I don't have an individual that I’m looking up to as there is something inspiring in everything and everyone. Just look around:)
What's next for Kat?
I’m currently working on a book project and several exhibitions. Also I'm working on a music video that I shot and directed, and I'm working on opening my online shop where you'll be able to order prints. Ahh, and getting ready to go on tour next month:)