sara katz – the man behind the curtain

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Sara Katz

The Man Behind the Curtain

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When I was growing up, and my dad got into any sort of argument with my mom over something banal (the most common cause being a joke deemed too off-color, annoying, childish, etc.), I would say something in his defense or just affirm my approval by laughing. Even though this argument never actually placated my mom, he would turn to me every time and say, in a tone of voice that suggested this unconditionally proved he was beyond reproof, “See, she thinks I’m funny.” And when my mom gave her follow-up disapproving grunt, he would add with a smirk, “You just don’t understand me. Sara and I understand each other though.” And it was true, we did understand each other. But then I got older, and the more I actually learned about my dad, the more that childhood idolatry faded (like it does with most people at some point). My dad was not the immaculate wizard that I once thought he was. Yet as the bluntness of these pictures suggest, I am still extremely close to my dad. His willingness to participate in this project had no conditions, except his affirmation of my mom’s firm demand for “no naked photographs.” As if they had to ask.

While part of this project is photojournalistic in nature, a documentation of a day in the life of 60-year-old David Alexander Katz, the other half is about my own experience of what it is like to go home when home has lost its authority. As an only child who spent the vast majority of her first five years within five hundred feet of her house (and after that, evenly split between school), it perhaps took me longer than most to realize that the vocabulary, lifestyle, and values of my family were not universal. Now, to return home is to feel like a well-informed guest. I am still in the know. I am well schooled in the lingo and rituals, and yet I have also gained the outsider’s critical eye for detail. Parts of my dad that never seemed interesting or unique (i.e. worth photographing) now appear like new discoveries.

If there was a challenging aspect to this project it was that, while away from home I was confident in the idea, but after being home for a bit to shoot it became difficult to see the point. As my dad put it after he took in the work for the first time, “I dunno Sara, I’m proud, but it just looks like a bunch of pictures to me.” At times I’ve felt the same way.


Sara Katz was born in Baltimore in 1985, graduated from Bard College in 2007, and currently resides primarily in Brooklyn.

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Sara Katz