The Appetizing Art of Aaron Rezny

Portrait by Leila Sutton

When did you first know you were an artist?
I started taking photographs in my parents’ Brooklyn basement when I was 12. Then I got accepted to the High School of Art and Design. I went on to receive a scholarship to attend the School of Visual Arts, where I earned a fine arts degree. But after I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I dabbled. First I was a photo assistant, then I briefly shot fashion—which wasn’t for me—until, ultimately, I found my calling as a commercial food and still life photographer.

Favorite medium(s) you use to make art…
Large format digital capture.

What are the most interesting new trends in your field? Is your work changing as a result?
I will say that the inflated costs of New York City real estate have impacted the commercial photography business more than anyone anticipated. People are pulling up stakes or being forced to close up shop entirely. Alternatively, small towns like Kingston, with their wonderful surroundings and affordable commercial spaces, are presenting new opportunities for artists and small business owners like myself. But you have to be willing to take the risk of relocating. I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker, and at this stage in my career I was welcoming a change. It was more than a good business decision; it was a quality of life decision. And I am grateful for how welcoming the artists and the City of Kingston have been.

Talk about your creative process – where/when do you get most of your ideas and how do you know a piece is ‘finished’?
Taking photographs is a mystical process for me. Before digital, I loved the magic of the dark room, the thrill of waiting to see the final image. Even now, every digital capture feels like I’m opening a present.

Do you also teach or are you strictly a creative artist? Who was your most influential mentor and why? How do you see the role of being a mentor? And why?
I don’t consider myself a teacher, but I do believe in giving back. I sit on the Board of Advisors of the High School of Art and Design, and I regularly invite design students from FIT into my studio to discuss brand strategy and packaging.

What are you working on now?
Over the last five years, I’ve been gravitating toward more personal projects. A few years ago, I co-authored and photographed a book called Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food. We were blessed to have some very celebrated contributors. Joan Rivers did the intro and Lou Reed, Bette Midler and Milton Glaser, among others, were kind enough to contribute remembrances—and that was really thrilling for me. I have two other exciting projects in the works: Obsolete celebrates beautiful, outdated objects and Survived is a visual catalog of artifacts from the Holocaust. As the son of two Holocaust survivors, this has been my most personal and important project to date.

How has being in Kingston enhanced/inspired your work? What do you like best about living in Kingston/being involved with MAD? How long have you been here?
My lease was up in Chelsea and the rent increase, had I renewed, would have been outrageous. The block and surrounding neighborhood were in flux, and a move anywhere else in Manhattan or the five boroughs would have been equally as expensive. And, frankly, I just had the sense that New York City had lost its soul. I’ve had a weekend home in Woodstock for many years, so I was familiar with the area. I bought a vacant warehouse, a 7,000 square foot space, and moved everything up to Kingston. I have an interest in architecture and design and felt I could afford to indulge that passion, while at the same time significantly lowering my overhead and integrating myself into the growing Midtown Arts District. The energy reminds me of what SoHo felt like 30 years ago.

Of course, if my clients require it, I’m still willing to shoot anywhere; I’m an easy hour and a half from the city. Most of my clients have eagerly embraced the new location. I’m able to deliver on budget and they enjoy working in a state-of-the-art new space with vacation-like surroundings. Plus, it’s just so easy to work remotely nowadays.

Oh, did I mention the light?! The new studio, which is three times as large as the one in Chelsea, and includes a living space, two commercial kitchens and a future art gallery, is awash in daylight. I just bask in it and feel grateful.

Aaron Rezny, Inc
76 Prince St. Studios

76 Prince St
Kingston, NY 12401