paola navone interior designer

Celebrating Paola Navone with Baxter and Interior Design Magazine

I recently photographed an event at DDC in Manhattan for the presentation of a book by designer Paola Navone.  This event was attended by Baxter, for whom Paola is a designer, and an intimate group of design professionals, and featured in Interior Design Magazine.  Interior Design Magazine writes: “Over 30 designers gathered at DDC ’s New York flagship with Baxter to celebrate Interior Design Hall of Fame member Paola Navone’s newly released book. Called Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone, the book—written by Spencer Bailey and published by Pointed Leaf Press—examines the Milan-based designer’s vibrant global projects. Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen toasted Navone’s accomplishments before guests enjoyed dinner, hors d’oeuvres, and cocktails catered by Clouds.”  Paola Navone has been an architect, designer, art director, interior designer, critic, teacher, and organizer of exhibitions and events since the 1970s.  It was really a privilege celebrating her long and colorful career, which continues to surprise and inspire.

 Tham Ma Da – Thrilling and Bold

Her new book, the title of which means “Everyday” in Thai, features a survey of Paola’s artful, inspired spaces.  Pointed Leaf Press, the publishing company for Tham ma da, describes the book as “an in-depth tour of Navone’s most thrilling and bold interiors – from hotels in Miami and Phuket, Thailand, to private residences in Italy and France.”  Her work, informed by her world travels, has received global acclaim, and “she has collaborated with major furniture and home accessory brands such as Crate & Barrel, Alessi, Gervasoni, Cappellini, and Baxter.”  Baxter, an Italian company represented by DDC, specializes in distinctive furniture made from vintage and reclaimed pieces with a dark, handsome, and sophisticated aesthetic. Baxter asserts in their mission statement that “emotions shouldn’t be described, they should be experienced.”  I couldn’t agree more. This is why I work in pictures. What better way to share a feeling? And the feeling of being in these inspired spaces is truly worth sharing.

Design World Events Through the Lens

When you’re an event photographer for a designer event in a premier showroom in New York City, the assignment is not just photographing a party.  The experience is something more. There is something powerful about being in a room made of art pieces, surrounded by the people who made it. There is an incredible amount of beauty, feeling, and interest in this atmosphere.  It feels like event photography, portrait photography, interior photography, and product photography all at once. It is quite a tall order, but one with a great deal of photographic potential.  Besides portraying the people in attendance and conveying their emotions, capturing the setting was obviously of extreme importance.  These images would be published in Interior Design Magazine Website, and I needed an excellent variety of engaging shots that flattered the guests, the space, and the design objects therein.

The Technical Approach

I switched between my Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 telephoto, my Nikon 24mm 1.4 wide angle, and my Nikon 50mm 1.4 prime lens throughout the night, depending on the needs of the shot, in order to give a developed sense of the room and the people in it.   I got close with my 70-200mm to capture the decadence of details like hors d’oeuvres, floral arrangements, and a book signing. I surveyed the room and captured engaging moments of the night with my 24mm and and my 50mm. I made sure to look for meaningful interactions between people, as well as interesting vantage points that emphasized the drama or the elegance of the space.  But mainly, I became a part of the night, sitting among the guests and shooting from a very close distance. I strove for dynamic images that captured the sense of warmth and camaraderie among the guests, the air of excitement and joy, and the artfulness of the space that housed the celebration.

Telling the Story in Style

It is meaningful to be a part of this atmosphere – I am not just a photographer, but an integral part of designers’ work.  They need photography to run their business; the creative portrayal of their projects is an extension of their craft. They are not one-time customers, but repeat clients, and I need to evolve my photography for them every time I shoot.  Just as they must keep moving forward with their designs and their business, constantly augmenting the experience they deliver, so must I. I must constantly think about how to see things in new and compelling ways.  However, if you only think in terms of this approach, you risk having too few usable photos.  When you’re shape-shifting to capture acute moments or peripheral details in extremely varied lighting, getting lost in experimentation and creative envisioning, you risk missing those very important (but perhaps more factual) shots that paint the bigger picture.  

Striking a Balance

So, what is the solution?  To tell the whole story, you must balance your approach.  You can be very creative, and, undoubtedly, not doing so in this environment would be a missed opportunity.  But at the same time, you must deliver photos that solidly report the facts of the occasion, in order to succeed as a documentarian.  Clients need photos that are well-exposed, sharp, clear, and portray people in their best light. But they also want and deserve something that transcends these basic metrics for success.  You must strive for a diverse yet cohesive selection of photos; you must be sensible while still taking risks. This is why no job is too easy, and no photographer is too experienced. This is what makes photography such a rich endeavor.  I try to walk into every job with fresh eyes and deliver not only what the client needs, but what they didn’t know they needed.