As I turned the corner into the photography studio, a pair of eyes on my left immediately caught my attention. On the wall hung a photographed portrait of a girl, perhaps 13 or 14, wearing a deep burgundy dress and a single strand of pearls. Her face is a swirl of light emerging from the darkened background, evoking the mood of a Rembrandt painting or Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
The photographer who so skillfully captured this dramatic portrait is Beverly Rezneck (beverlyrezneckphotography.com). She has photographed senators and school kids, flowers and the famous. Her base of operations: her Forest Hills basement.
Beverly Macht Rezneck has lived in the same home on Albemarle Street since 1972, when she and her husband, Dan, moved into the neighborhood from Q Street in Georgetown. She grew up in Baltimore, and he grew up in Troy, New York; two gritty, industrial cities, which she says is one reason they knew they were a good match.
Rezneck and her husband met at a party thrown by him and another bachelor. She had gone out on a date with the second bachelor once, and he invited her to the party.
“I guess they needed single women,” she said.
Rezneck’s first job in DC was as a GS-3 stamping mail in the mail room at the Internal Revenue Service. She subsequently moved on and worked for one of Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s assistants, where she wrote letters (which, was the extent of what women were permitted to do there and then. The men were the assistants; the women were assistants to the assistants). She then served as press assistant to New York Congressman Joseph Y. Resnick. She wrote speeches, items for the Congressional Record, letters and other materials.
This experience would lead her to say, after her marriage to Dan Rezneck, she was always destined to have a Rezneck of some variety (or spelling) in her life.
Rezneck moved on to other positions within the federal government and started taking a photography course at night after work. She had two children, close in age, after moving into the Forest Hills home, and through her children’s attendance at Beauvoir school, she landed her first photography project, taking photos for a pamphlet about the Science Room at Beauvoir. That project led to a second project for the school, and Rezneck was off and running.
As she raised her children and enjoyed life in Forest Hills, she began to hire herself out to photograph weddings. Some of the fruits of her labor hang on the walls of the basement in her Forest Hills home. The photos show the dramatic changes in fashion and photography styles from the 1970s to the present.
As her portfolio grew, along with her interest in honing her skills, Rezneck sought opportunities to study her art. One such opportunity arose when she attended a short course at the now-closed Shoot Smarter University in Aurora, Illinois, run by photographer Will Crockett. While there, Rezneck had a chance to study with commercial photographer Marc Hauser, whom she says greatly influenced her work. The course culminated in the school hiring models for a student photo shoot. Students were encouraged enter their best photograph in the school’s contest.
Rezneck’s photo of a model holding a scarf over her head, bangs pressed down almost into her eyes, drawing the viewer into her direct gaze, was chosen as the contest winner.
The prize? A life-size print of her own photo, which now hangs from thumbtacks on the basement wall.
Elsewhere in Rezneck’s basement photography lair hang the faces of leaders and luminaries, celebrities and citizens. Portraits of Andre Agassi, Kofi Annan and Geraldine Ferraro are featured in the same photo collage as those of happy couples and children.
A photo of a grinning Senator Ted Kennedy with Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, the two men caught in the middle of a joke, fingers pointing at each other, sits on a shelf above a formal portrait of a composed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
These days, Rezneck is focusing more on nature than people and is producing many photos of cut flowers against a black background, showcasing her eye for the drama that starkly contrasting images invoke.
The images feature one or two colors only and vary as to whether the blooms are at their zenith of freshness or starting to wither around the edges.
Rezneck prefers capturing the images as the flowers pass their peak bloom and begin to fade.
Indeed, the wrinkles and browning petals create a unique mood in the photographs and make them arresting to the eye. Some of these photos hang in groups around her home, sharing space with her favorite subjects - her two children, now adults, and their children.
Rezneck has begun producing greeting cards featuring her eye-catching flower images, which she prints and cuts by hand in her photo lab and makes available for purchase in her Etsy shop.
She still does portrait, family, business and corporate photography, and the occasional wedding when serendipity or special requests arise.
When asked what she likes best about her art and her work, Rezneck answers, “I love the variety. You have to think about how to do a photo of one person, then how to do a photo of 200 people. I can’t wait to see people’s faces when they see their pictures!”