I recently had the opportunity to work with one of the best and most experienced interior and architectural photographers in the business – Eric Roth. He produced all of the images in my online portfolio, but is of course far better known for his spectacular work for little shelter magazines like Traditional Home, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Design New England, New England Home, and Better Homes & Gardens, to name just a few. Though you would never know it by talking to him (truly one of the nicest guys there is, no ego whatsoever), he’s kind of a big deal.
Through his lens, Eric has had the unique opportunity to see some of the most beautifully designed homes across the country. I naturally had a lot of questions for him about what he has seen and experienced during his prolific career so far (especially related to how different families live in their homes and utilize their space), and fortunately, he generously agreed to not only answer them for me, but to also allow me to share his responses with my readers. Lucky us!
How long have you been working as a professional photographer?
During high school and college I studied and I freelanced. That was many moons ago. And ever since, it is in my blood. Photography is all the work I have ever done!
Why did you choose to focus on interior design and architectural photography?
I always had an interest in furniture building and decorating. That got me started with interiors, but I am always drawn to photographing the qualities presented by a personal place. Besides the space, light, color, form, texture and pattern, there are many intangible qualities that provide me with never-ending fascination. These are the personal aspects that evoke what is unique about each of us as human beings. What we surround ourselves with, feel happy about, and how we remember the past and dream of tomorrow.
What have been some of your favorite photo shoot locations – in New England and beyond?
It would be difficult to pick my favorite locations. I love shooting creative, expressive interior design the best. If I travel out of New England, there is a different vibe. I find that New Englanders are very tuned into their interior environment. Maybe it’s partly because of the long winter. We just appreciate what is around us and we love beautiful furniture, fabrics, finishes, art, and all the beauty we can put in our homes.
How do you approach documenting a family’s home?
I try to look for a story in any home. If the design is spare, I can sometimes express that in interesting abstract compositions. If the people are collectors, I want to show how they love where they have been and have surrounded themselves with fascinating objects. I want to express much of the feeling of the people who live there. Sometimes a very simple shot can capture the essence and communicate it. It’s not usually verbal…it’s visual. Feelings can be conveyed visually and that’s what I am always on the hunt for!
What are some of the ways you incorporate the homeowner’s unique personality into your photography?
This is a big part of the art of it all. I love the intangible, and the spirit of it. It’s a visual feeling that we get from one thing or another in the photo. We will look everywhere until we find the right combination of styling. It’s always a matter of enough but not too much. I become immersed in their world and distill it visually into a photograph.
Can you tell me about some of the clever design solutions you have encountered in the course of your work, in family homes with children?
Well, I recently photographed a very warm room that the grandparents had created for their young visitors. They had a play area and built in trundle bed for a cozy home away from home. Every grandparents dream would be a visit where the kids’ needs are easily met. I’ve also recently photographed a playroom that had wonderful nooks that made you want to be a child again. The room had larger areas for birthday parties and music and was designed to be useful for all ages as kids grow. I like bright colors and they weren’t shy about that.
What specific qualities did you admire about some of the best kids’ rooms you’ve photographed?
I personally admire simplicity. The child can imagine anything. They don’t need a giant tree sculpture with animatronic animals jumping out at them. They need storage, a big space if possible, and a little nook perhaps. A loft would be cool, but they would probably dive off that constantly. Please no TV and computers here. Just let them play. Hey, now I am talking more as a Dad than a photographer.
Are there any interior decoration or home decor trends you have noticed recently that relate to family-friendly design?
Well, we all see a move to the big room where Mom can cook and talk to the kids. Dad is working in the room with French doors, but at least he can be seen. I see too many TV’s everywhere and think the family needs time with all electronics off. It’s great when a house is simple and organized so the kids can be responsible for their stuff. Bright cheerful colors always make me smile. Give me light, and go easy on window treatments. Hey, now I’m the designer talking, but I guess I feel that what photographs well, probably lives well too. Have fun, don’t be too serious. Your kids will grow fast and want happy memories. Have easy dinner parties with buffets. Make the kids cook and clean a little. Don’t be a slave to them, but rather model for them a happy life. Make your friends their friends. Most importantly, spend some alone time with your spouse. If you have a comfortable, neat, organized house, everyone will be much happier, I guarantee it!!
Thank you to Eric for sharing your experiences and insights with us! For the rest of us, I leave you with a very small sliver of highlights from Eric’s photography portfolio, which is a highlight reel in and of itself. All images via ericrothphoto.com.