New Canaan resident and renowned photographer Jane Beiles has been preparing for her career since childhood, when she would regularly visit museums with her mother. She went on to get a degree in art history at the University of Michigan, and worked as a fashion photographer, before eventually focusing on capturing gorgeous homes for the HOME section in the New York Times. Now, some of her most striking images appear in a new book, HOME: The Best of The New York Times Home Section: The Way We Live Now, with text by Noel Millea, former editor of the Home section. In this exclusive interview, the artist and mother of three talks about the work she says “fills my cup.”
How would you describe this book?
The HOME section was a beloved part of the Thursday newspaper from its debut on March 17, 1977 until its last issue on March 5, 2015. This book, edited by Noel Millea, is a collection of favorite features in “On Location”, which provided a glimpse in to residences and the people who inhabited them across the country and around the world.
What is your perspective on photographing homes?
When I enter a space that I’m shooting, I absolutely look before I listen. I’m taking note of the light in the space, compelling potential frames, the way the architecture showcases the interiors and any beautiful moments large or small. My area of passion in college was art history and I was particularly drawn to still life paintings and interiors.
For this assignment in particular, what was your goal?
For an assignment like “On Location” I hope to provide a sense of the space to the end viewer. To do so, I make sure to vary the long views and close up details of the space. I love to think of the whole sensory experience of the space and transport the viewer so much so that they may even get a sense of the smells and sounds of the place via my photographs. And I love to use nature to give a sense of the scale of a place.
What is the most challenging part of photographing homes?
I suppose I’m drawn to shooting still life (rather than portraits or events) in part because of the relative ability to control the subject matter. Case in point: a sofa will stay still much better than a three-year-old. However, there are elements of home photography that fall out of control including available light and the size of rooms and door openings. Just ask any interiors photographer how they like shooting powder rooms! They often have poor natural light, no space to move back, a doorway blocking the view and oh, yes, the issue of the toilet!
What drew you to this area?
I love the vitality of the New York metropolitan area. I moved to New York at age twenty-one, drawn by the vibrant arts scene. I lived in Manhattan for a decade, during which time I met my husband and we decided to start a family in an area more conducive to bike rides and back yards, similar to how we each grew up. I had been out to New Canaan for weekends with friends and was charmed by the quaint downtown and also the area’s rich history of art and architecture. Between Philip Johnson’s Glass House, the Silvermine Art Guild, Harvard Five homes and, now, the amazing campus of Grace Farms, New Canaan is a terrific place to raise our family.
What else do you enjoy about this area?
I also love this part of the country for its amazing food scene. My first collaborations with Serendipity were actually food shoots. Shooting food for me is very similar to interiors. I’m drawn to the shapes, colors and textures to form a rich composition. Some recent memorable meals have been dinner at Farmer’s Table in New Canaan with my family, Garden Catering sandwiches delivered to our crew on photo shoot days and special occasions at the Inn at Pound Ridge.
Photographs by Jane Beiles