Katz spread love of photography wherever he went

Saturday April 6, 2013

DUMMERSTON -- Roger Katz had a very personal style of photography.

He liked to capture portraits of people that depicted them in their natural disposition and exhibited their essence. He also shared his love and knowledge of photos with anyone that would listen and served as an unofficial mentor to many.

That's how his sister, Marsha Katz, and his closest friends will always remember him.

Roger H. Katz died of cancer at 11:30 a.m. Monday in his home. He was 65.

He wished to be cremated and half of his ashes will be buried next to his late mother during a graveside ceremony in Birmingham, Mich., on Sunday, while the other half will be buried once Dummerston's Wilder Cemetery opens.

Katz was well-known to many in the area for his passion for cameras and his talent for portraying life through professional photographs. He once owned two photography shops -- Photo 101 and Elliott Street Camera -- and operated Black Mountain Studios up until his death.

Those who knew him best say Katz was an athletic Renaissance man who felt most at home when he was outdoors. His sister even said he used to be able to run a mile in a fraction more than four minutes.

L. Michael Lovell, who had known Katz since the late 1960s, said his friend rekindled his love of photography and did the same for others throughout the years.

Katz was born in Detroit, Mich., on Aug. 15, 1947, to Edward and Genevieve (Kocot) Katz. He was raised and educated in the Detroit area and after his father gave him his first camera, he made his own dark room in the basement of this parents' house, where he honed his skills.

"He was never in school or around town without that camera around his neck," Marsha Katz recalled. "He took all the pictures for the yearbook and the school newspaper and he photographed all the plays and worked at the student station."

His sister, who now lives in Missoula, Mont., said he became enamored. The Associated Press paid him for some of his photos while he was still in high school and developed a reputation as a skilled shutterbug.

"I think sometimes people are probably surprised by the things he had done. He was a private person and preferred to be under the radar," she told the Reformer. "He was an observer and a chronicler of things."

Katz moved to Vermont in the ‘60s to attend Marlboro College, where he majored in physiology and liberal arts and met friend Bob Johnson, whom he would later work for at Omega Optical, Inc. for the 17 years before his death.

"He was quiet, thoughtful, conscientious, and very thorough but, at the same time, creative," Johnson said.

Lovell said he and Katz had been "friends forever," and he moved into his house four months ago to watch over him.

"He was a very, very gentle, very, very kind man," he said.

Katz quickly fell in love with the town he made his home -- and that love extended into Brattleboro.

His sister said he was somewhat famous in the town, even to people who weren't quite sure who is was. She told a story about walking into a bank shortly after her brother died and mentioning his death to the bank employees. She said one young woman expressed her condolences but said the name didn't sound familiar, despite her parents having a home on Black Mountain Road. Marsha Katz said she showed a photo of her brother to the woman, who responded, "Oh, I knew him."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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