Interiors photographer Read McKendree has seen many beautiful homes. In its more than 20 years of shooting myriad subjects, from surf shacks to city penthouses, the Rhode Island-based lens has honed what makes a space not only beautiful, but unique, evocative and convincing. A champion harnesser of light and master of color, the photographer, husband and father sat down with Coveteur to discuss the commonalities he’s noticed in the most special spaces, regardless of style.
“This space reminds me of summers in New England,” says McKendree. “I wear a straw hat in my car, always ready for an impromptu day at the beach.”
Photo: Read McKendree/JBSA; Designed by: Lilse McKenna
What common themes have you noticed between homes that photograph beautifully?
“Strong design intent. Blank walls that are meant to be empty can look beautiful, especially when they catch a streak of light or a shadow. Similarly, an overflowing library can be an amazing time. When homes are designed with the homeowner’s lifestyle in mind, a layer of personality takes over.
What’s your favorite house you’ve ever photographed and why?
“My wife works part-time for an architect, manages social media and produces their photoshoots (dealing with me). One of the shoots was a house made up of three cabins on an island in Maine. The city was largely closed for the season so we had to pack food, wine and all the paraphernalia we would need. Along with a few people we met there, we felt like the island was ours to explore. The house was really laid back and only one cabin was secluded. It was obvious that the owners considered simplicity, their land and their views the ultimate luxury – I could have moved in and never left.
“It was an old house that had been renovated and Robert [McKinley] retained much of the original woodwork,” says McKendree. “There is a warmth and a soul in old wood that only comes with time.
Photo: Read McKendree/JBSA; Designed by: Studio Robert McKinley
Prefer to work with a stylist on set? If yes, why?
“Absolutely. Stylists bring so much to a shoot and to the final images. Their interpretations of space, made through prop and flower decisions, are just as important as the angle and lighting the photographer chooses. They are also just as focused on small details like tangent lines, wrinkles and twisted shades as I am, which allows me to focus on composition and light. obsessed!”
How did you start photographing interiors?
“I almost left photography school to pursue architecture studies, so there was always an interest in design and the built environment. I ended up getting a degree in photography and started to be photographed right away. One of my very first clients was actually an interior designer. In the beginning there were a lot of odd jobs mixed in with the occasional interior or architecture gig – whatever it was. years later, when he was photographing surfers’ homes for a book called surf huts, that I really fell in love with capturing interior spaces. I focused my attention entirely on capturing built environments and how best to translate the essence of a space into a two-dimensional image. Since then, I’ve learned to do it as efficiently and beautifully as possible.
“The pieces a homeowner collects can say a lot about them and add a very rich layer to home decor,” says McKendree.
Photo: Read McKendree/JBSA; Designed by: Lucy Harris Studio
What do you love most about interior photography?
“I like to see how other people live and how designers and architects adapt and create around that. I can spend a day or two in a lot houses throughout the year and each one tells its own story. Of course, with that comes challenges: endlessly changing variables, logistical challenges, and lighting puzzles. It keeps things fresh and exciting. And I like the way the light dances in a room; this often leads me to a composition. Light is important to all photographers, but inside a house you almost feel like a guest. It can completely transform a room.
Do you have any tips for someone trying to create thumbnails at home?
“When capturing a thumbnail for a client, what I leave out of frame is just as important as what I include. It helps to focus on specific objects and understand how they interact with each other while momentarily ignoring the rest of the room.
“I really appreciate a nod to the natural environment surrounding a home,” McKendree says. “This piece brought in so many colors and textures from the surrounding landscape of Carmel, California.”
Photo: Read McKendree/JBSA; Designed by: Atelier/APD
What are the top three lessons you’ve learned from being in some of the finest homes in the country?
“1) Quality over quantity. My wife and I do our best to wait for the right piece of furniture instead of rushing to one we’ll regret or fall apart. 2) I just want to live in a house that builds character as it gets older. My parents still have the kitchen table I used to do my homework on and you can see my old handwriting in the wood. These imperfections are memories. 3) The art is so important. And it doesn’t have to be expensive to make sense. Support artist friends or buy something from a thrift store. If it brings you joy, buy it and hang it!”