It’s been my mission through the years I’ve spent photographing residential interior design to interpret the work of the artist-designers who’ve trusted me to record their creations. From the crisp, clean modernism of today to the revival of a style from the past, these homes all have a common theme: that the homeowner wishes to live surrounded by beauty as he or she personally sees it. They each and all are special.
When the assignment came from Architectural Digest Magazine to photograph Cher’s home in Miami Beach, I found myself in a place rooted in the past. Although modern in most functional respects, the mood of the home was a combination of Middle Ages meets Renaissance meets North Africa. With much of the furniture and accessories of her own design, Cher had created a warm and romantic feeling. Sheltered in an architecture of arches, columns, mysterious hallways and winding stairs, the home is an example of a very personal vision, one all her own.
The Entry Foyer flanked by stairways leading to the home’s private areas
In the foyer the mystery begins. I felt the best time of day to shoot this space would be at dusk when the subtle tones of low kelvin interior lighting and candlelight would predominate. Actually, the shot was set up at night and we waited for the blue light of dawn outside to light up the windows and doorway. This blue effect outside helped emphasize and contrast the warmth inside. I attempted to make the interior surfaces appear as though they had been lit by existing built-in sources. In reality, these real sources weren’t enough to convey the effect I wanted, so I had to provide my own lighting. My goal when doing this is to make it seem as though I’ve added nothing; the effect being a natural part of the scene.
The Master Bedroom
Although the Master Bedroom could have been photographed to great advantage at night, just like the Foyer, I felt that, in this case I could take advantage of the sunlight flooding in during the day. In this way I would provide some contrast for the art director designing the layout; moving away from the mystery and drama of the night look and contrasting it with a “natural” day lit scene. Of course, the word “natural” is only what seems to be. As usual, I bring in my own lighting to make the image work. But the effect in the scene’s light is again, natural.
The Living Room at dusk looks out to the nearby waterway
Cher’s collection of objects represented many different styles. But the overall effect was of a world traveler who collected as she roamed. So it was important for me to focus on and illustrate the artifacts and artworks which adorned the home. I did this in the main Living Room area as well as in her Bedroom and Study.
Personal treasured objects and artworks detailed in the Living Room
I was intrigued by the mysterious entry and hallway leading to the Master Bedroom. The arched door and ceiling gave further emphasis to the Renaissance period mood. Looking though the door towards a far sunlit window past sconces and dramatic single sculpture drew me in. Shooting a one-point perspective further dramatized that feeling.
Arched doorway leading to the Master Bedroom
Columns everywhere; plain ones and fluted ones with ornate capitols, wonderful to use as frames to the compositions of many shots. Here in the Dining Room was an incredible table setting, overflowing with objects.
An ornate Dining Room flanked by columns
I needed to do a closeup so that the details of the settings could be better understood. look at the tiny blossoms and rose petals dropped everywhere!
A Dining Room place setting adorned with rose petals
The courtyard to the home ensured a measure of privacy for a celebrity whose fans were curious about her lifestyle. But, in the end it couldn’t ensure it absolutely. Tourist boats plying the waterway behind the home would come in close, loudspeakers blaring, announcing the star’s presence. That may have been the straw that broke. She sold the house some years after this shoot.
Privacy insured by a walled Entry Courtyard