Sep 28, 2021
by Laura Chávez Silverman
This time of the pandemic has ushered in change, profoundly affecting how we work, with whom we socialize, where we live. It has been a challenge but there are ways in which it’s also been galvanizing and liberating. In 2020, Steven Randazzo and Bette Blau, life partners and creative collaborators, found rare free time to reassess and refocus. As photo shoots ground to a halt for these busy, in-demand professionals, they were able to relocate to their weekend home in Sullivan County, NY, and get going on a long-planned renovation that included the addition of a large studio.
Bette, a tabletop stylist with a fine art degree in painting, began shooting as a team with Steve in 2015. It was around that time that I stumbled across their now-defunct blog, What Bette Found. With Steve’s gift for capturing and sculpting light, and Bette’s for composing richly textural still-lifes, they create the kind of worlds you long to inhabit. I was ecstatic when I discovered a tiny mention of their house in Barryville, NY. My husband and I had left our Manhattan loft in 2009 to live full-time in the next town over from Barryville and I was continually on the lookout for kindred spirits in the area.
Food stylist: Lisa Homa
I first approached Steve and Bette to shoot some photos for a café I was developing. That business never panned out but the images live on, as does the friendship that grew out of that initial collaboration. Over the years, I continue to be impressed by their incredible work ethic—their standards are high and they are relentless in living up to them—and by the enormous creativity and personal style they bring to everything they do, on and off the job.
As is the case with so many successful creators, Bette and Steve’s work and personal passions dovetail seamlessly. And since their new, light-drenched studio is attached to their home, it’s even more integrated. “It used to be an hour commute to our studio in Industry City and it took more time to find your momentum,” says Steve. Bette agrees: “Now, I can be up at 6am and get right into it—painting, making collages, shooting.”
Steve is an avid cook, gardener and builder, whose meticulous craftsmanship defines his current obsession, whether designing an indoor grow room, building road bikes or nailing the perfect pistachio gelato. In Barryville, he has more time for deep dives and all the space he needs to follow his nose from one project to the next. He still travels for work, but he’s just as happy shooting at home in his fully loaded kitchen, state-of-the-art smoker cranking out back.
As a tabletop stylist in the city, Bette was constantly on the go—sourcing online just doesn’t satisfy her tactile sensibility. She feels much more grounded and focused living in nature. It inspires her work, including the surfaces she crafts and the layered imagery that incorporates her many finds, from vintage ephemera to organic elements. In early October, she’ll have a show of her fine art at a local gallery, where she also began taking ceramics classes this year.
Although work can feel like play to them, Bette and Steve know how to relax and recharge: floating on inner tubes in their cattail-ringed pond, meandering through the woods with their dog Riley, hosting gatherings in their magical screened-in porch. Their two grown sons visit often with their girlfriends, extended family and friends are welcomed and you can always count on delicious feasts (at a beautifully set table), stellar playlists and board games until the wee hours.
Steven’s Upstate Manhattan
3 ounces rye
1 ounce Cocchi Americano
Generous dash cardamom bitters
Wide strip of orange zest
Place a large, handcut ice cube in a rocks glass.
Add the rye, vermouth and bitters. Stir well.
Express the orange zest over the glass, swipe it around the rim and drop it in.
Bette Blau graduated SVA with a fine arts degree in painting, then built an enduring career as a stylist for print and TV. In 2015, she began shooting as a team with her husband, Steven Randazzo. As half of Randazzo Blau, she honed her photography skills and rediscovered her passion for styling combined with shooting smaller, more intimate projects. A focus on artisans has dovetailed with Bette’s rekindling of her love for painting and collage, facilitated by more time spent in her new home studio.
Steven Randazzo was born and raised in Queens, NY. When he was 12, his dad gave him a vintage bellows camera with manual focus and no internal meter. Steve picked it up and shot his first roll of film. Unexpectedly, all the images turned out sharp and properly exposed. He was hooked. After studying photography at SVA, Steve launched his career shooting food, still life and interiors. He is an avid cook, gardener and builder, who brings a personal passion to his work. Ever the meticulous craftsman, he has a gift for capturing and sculpting light.
Bette and Steven are based in New York City and Barryville, NY, where they have a beautiful daylight studio and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Lisa Homa is a NYC based food stylist and recipe developer whose Catskills escape is also considered home. Her journey from graphics and publishing pre-press to culinary school allowed her to combine a love of photography and the visual arts with a passion for food. Since then, her food styling career has taken her as far as Korea, Cyprus and Italy. She relishes collaborating on cookbooks such as The New York Times bestseller Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski. Other work and clients have ranged from Absolut and Hennessy to organicgirl, KitchenAid, Knorr and Bon Appetit.
Laura Chávez Silverman is a writer, creative director and the founding naturalist of The Outside Institute, which connects people to the healing and transformative powers of Nature through guided hikes, sustainable foraging education, wildcrafting workshops and botanical mixology. By nurturing humanity’s innate affinity for the wild, she inspires joyful awareness and an essential reciprocity between all beings. The Outside Institute, based in the Catskills, has published three volumes of its "Field Guide to the Hudson & Upper Delaware Valleys.”