At Home With a Colored Maestro (Just Don’t Call Him a Photographer)

    In 1988, he succumbed to the allure of Paris and moved to pursue fashion photography, followed by a stint in London three years later. There, he collaborated with Australian designer Jane Rorty, who convinced him to switch to food photography and interiors.

    Midnight Moondust, Thompson fabrics, wallpaper, and lampshade shade at Fabscarte Salone in 2017. Martin Thompson

    It wasn’t long before Ilse Crawford, the founding editor of british elle ornament, He saw his work and searched for it. The couple worked on several books, including them sensory home (Rizzoli, 2000) and Home is where the heart is (Rizzoli 2005). He has also authored two books on his own, published by Hardy Grant Books: the interior (2011), showing the homes of Francisco Costa, Creative Director of Calvin Klein; Elsa Peretti, Designed for Tiffany & Share ; and ’90s style icon Anna Sui, among others, and Workspace (2013).

    Meanwhile, masthead titles such as WAnd British VogueAnd Architectural Digest And Vanity Fair Commissioned to capture the personal spaces of leading artists, craftsmen and designers. Advertising campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Hermès, Tiffany, and Gucci kept the money flowing, but Thompson was tired of being a “translator.”

    He explains, “You bring your eyes and beauty to the job, but the end result is ‘them.’” I wanted something a bit more special, so I experimented, taking the details from my photos and working them into the fabric and wallpaper designs. Next thing, someone asked me to make tea sets, another brand asked me to make rugs, and other oversized vases.

    Thompson regrets the simple, cute and stark style that he’s recently seen developers adopt.

    Martin Thompson

    “I love everyday things. My bohemian look is sophisticated. Everything has a ‘handmade’ element. I don’t like things that are too glossy or polished. And I’m very specific in my color palette. Things I find beautiful have some patina.”

    Is this a byproduct of being a photographer, I ask? An innate ability to read light and understand the mood it creates?

    Thomson Penny Vases at Wheeler Gallery, London, are named in memory of her late boyfriend and created as an ode to her “enduring romance of history and abundance”. Courtesy Wheeler Gallery

    He answers, “I’m looking for decorations that include tone and color.” “Color is very important to me on an emotional level. I love for people to walk into the spaces I’ve created and comment on the emotions it evokes. This is just as important as how it looks.”

    Our conversation, in typical Sydney style, turns to real estate. Thompson regrets the simple, cute and stark style that he’s recently seen developers adopt. “I’m going to make room screens,” he states, pointing to a silver-gray one in the corner made of paint-scattered printed canvas from his Accidental Expressionist (2015) collection.

    Interior design curated by Martyn Thompson for Jo Malone Townhouse, the fragrance brand’s headquarters in London. Martin Thompson

    “Dividers add character to a room and create separate areas. This is what Sydney needs.”

    Thompson took me into his home ‘studio’ to get a preview of his upcoming second collection for British fragrance house Jo Malone London, due out in September (the first of which was launched in May 2020). It is immediately clear that the sensitivity of painting that has always characterized his style (Italian photographer Paolo Roversi “was a huge influence on me when I was developing”) continues to evolve.

    There is no escaping this graphic feel in Thompson’s photographs, like this one of Venice. Martin Thompson

    The brush strokes are raw and tactile, and the colors are a bit more whimsical and brighter than before.

    I glance over Thomson Harbor, through Bertley’s famous arched windows, and conclude that the late summer light is working its magic on his soul. He was a photographer…

    need to know

    Martin Thompson Studio Opening soon, 19/30 Maddox Street, Alexandria, Sydney.