October 19,2022

Photographer Pieter Estersohn Shares His Most Unforgettable Shots for AD

by David Stewart

Acclaimed interiors and architecture photographer Pieter Estersohn has documented incredible spaces around the world—many of them for this magazine—with an artist’s eye for the perfect natural light and composition. (In fact, in the February issue, he turned the camera on his own weekend home in upstate New York.) With so many gorgeous photo shoots in his portfolio, we had to ask: What are Estersohn’s favorites? Here, he shares the inspiration and preparation behind his most unforgettable shots featured in the pages of Architectural Digest .

Philanthropists Jennifer and Billy Frist’s Nashville, Tennessee, residence by architecture firm DA|AD and McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors, February 2013

“I think a lot about history as I’m composing my pictures, and when I saw these two faux-shearling William Haines Designs slipper chairs, my mind went to French furniture designer Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s rooms at the Musée Océanographique,” says Estersohn. “It’s the audacity of the proportions—something so scaled down under this insane soaring ceiling.”

Architect Jim Joseph and theater composer Scott Frankel’s house in New York’s Hudson Valley, February 2014

“Two very dear friends of mine live in this house; it’s about five miles from my home in the country, and it still completely has its soul,” Estersohn says. “There’s something almost minimalist about shooting architecture in the snow—it becomes more linear, like a drawing, due to the high contrast. This shot was about catching an ephemeral moment. The next day, the snow was melting off the trees. It was the perfect temperature; the snow was fluffy on the branches.”

A secluded Nova Scotia retreat by Alexander Gorlin Architects, February 2014

“This photo is about the pristine modern architecture of Alexander Gorlin,” says Estersohn. “When you’re dealing with impeccably detailed architecture, it’s like working with a supermodel, as opposed to dealing with another kind of portrait, where it becomes about concealing and hiding and tricking things out a bit.”

Fashion designer and art collector Kasper’s Manhattan apartment, April 2011

“I grew up collecting 19th- and 20th-century photography. When I was 18, I bought a portrait of Edith Sitwell by Cecil Beaton. I often find myself consciously—or unconsciously—referencing historic imagery. When I saw Kasper, I knew we had to shoot him in a similar profile. He is so elegant, so refined. He’s an erudite aesthete who has collected this cross-section of 17th- through 21st-century photography, paintings, and drawings. I hoped this portrait expressed that.”

Decorator Sara Story’s SK Ranch in Texas, by Lake|Flato Architects, April 2014

“I think we did 120 shots in two days in 110-degree heat, but this property was so inspiring,” Estersohn says. “You walk into this huge compound and there’s not one moment where your eye is distracted by less-than-perfect craftsmanship. I’m obsessive about details, and when there are no mistakes to conceal, I can just play with composition. For me, the poetry is in the contrast between the informal gravel driveway and the impeccable architecture.”

Las Vegas home by architect William Hablinski and design firm Atelier AM, September 2012

“It’s a very livable home—I didn’t feel uptight there. There was a magical tension between the Anish Kapoor sculpture and the Roman mosaic panel. It’s exciting for me to look at design and see a very careful curation of modern and antique.”

Music-world consultant Andrea Anson’s Manhattan townhouse, October 2013

“This is a close friend of mine’s house—I’ve been there many times as a guest. It’s wonderful for me to go into a space where I have warm memories,” says Estersohn. “I find this space to be profoundly sophisticated and personal, a pure expression of the homeowner. When the books are not styled, I’m impressed—we didn’t move them, and you really get that the books are used. We left the candles in the chandelier wonky. It’s a sublimely inviting space.”

A Cape Dutch–style home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by architect Bobby McAlpine and interior designer Ray Booth, October 2014

“This Dutch-inspired house really blew my mind. I love the historically correct fenestration. It’s transformational for me when a new house uses old materials,” Estersohn says. “I think floors are very important as you navigate a space—think about how often your eyes are on the floor. They brought in this beautiful historic marble tile and the patina, age, and texture lend themselves to photography and change the experience of being in the space.”

A Bay Area residence by architect Lewis Butler and interior decorator Steven Volpe, November 2011

“This is a very edited interior, and everything in it is spectacular: the Zaha Hadid Dune table, the Jeff Zimmerman chandelier, the distinct tone of the Tobia Scarpa chairs, the photograph on the right. The intentional offness of the composition of the room is gutsy and different. It draws the eye to spend a little more time looking at it.”

A boldly geometric property in Los Cabos, Mexico, by Olson Kundig Architects and designer Terry Hunziker, November 2012

“This shot was about two things: linear, single-point composition juxtaposed with the beautiful colors of the ocean outside,” says Estersohn. “I remember being obsessed with the roof jutting out on the left and making sure that aggressive line going out into the center of the picture above the water was in the right place.”

Philanthropists Amy and John Phelan’s Aspen, Colorado, chalet by Stone Fox Architects, November 2015

“It’s a simple white room architecturally, but there is a spectacular personal art collection. I loved this rootlike chandelier by sculptor Donald Lipski, how it played with the snow-covered trees outside. I’m always looking at subtleties, like that triangle of light on the wall, which we timed so it hit the installation without breaching its integrity. The glass tables were six inches thick, and we set up backlight to give them that shimmery quality.”

  • David Stewart
  • October 19,2022

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