I’m here with James Balston at the W hotel in Leicester Square. James is a professional photographer and a good friend of ours. He has worked with us on many shoots as he specializes in interior photography. He has an impressive list of clients and regularly contributes to magazines and newspapers such as House & Garden, The Saturday Times and The Telegraph.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background?
I always knew I wanted to be an interior design when I was a child I was busy re-designing my parents house all the time! I graduated in 1990 in the teeth of the last recession and I was very lucky to get a job with Jigsaw working as their in-house interior designer, which was a wonderful place to work. I designed shops here in the UK and Australia. I then went freelance and designed many spaces from bars and restaurants and a few residential projects as well.
I was good at the creative side but the whole project management side got me down. I was looking for someway out but still wanting to keep within interiors. I had always hankered after photography, but a friend said that I should just go and be a photographer, so I did and I haven’t looked back. I began to get commissions from other designers and it grew from there.
What to you makes a great interior space?
I’ve always liked turning things on their head slightly, playing around with ideas not necessarily just having one sort of purist notion of an interior. Maybe playing around with things from different eras and different ideas coming into play to give a layered look to a space. It’s not about being dogmatic and having one style it’s about responding to the client.
Who does your styling on set?
That varies a lot. Very often if I’m shooting for a designer normally the designer will be in control. They always like to trust me to tweak things. I have worked with stylists as well and it’s always nice to have them on board, while I’m busy setting up on my side of the job.
James’ photography captures the personality of interiors so well, with striking vibrance. This is one of his recent shoots for a collectors home.
Do you have a favorite designer?
I admire people from all different ends of the spectrum, people who are both purists and driven in a different direction and people who love mixing it all up so on the sort of flamboyant side who I have worked with recently is Shaun Clarkson, great fun interiors and a joy to photograph.
You must have seen some amazing homes, which was the most unique?
I shot the house of Michael Nicholas, and his bedroom pallet, which would horrify a lot of people, was black but I think it really worked. It was a lovely, cozy, dark space that I would happily sleep in. You’re there to sleep so why not?
Another unique room has to be the pink bar at the G hotel in Galway, designed by Philip Tracey (the hat designer), which is extraordinary – very vibrant, you almost get swallowed up by the place!
The Pink Bar, G Hotel, as photographed by James
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years time?
Certainly still doing what I love, I don’t ever see myself stopping sort of extreme bad health! If there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do its photograph super yachts!
Your favorite film?
I do love noir classics. The Third Man is one of the all time classics, I do love that film. And another -my taste is quite schizophrenic – there is a great Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine film from the 60’s called The Apartment!
James worked with us on our Banstead project, to name just one
What is your favorite spot in London?
Probably a lot of people have been to the proms and sat in the audience but for the first time recently I queued up for the day and sat upstairs. You take cushions and blankets, food and drink and lay on the floor listening to the music. The floor is a cool marble, so on a hot evening with a cool glass of wine what can be better!
Worldwide do you have a favorite place?
My partner is from Bavaria and we go time again to Munich and it’s one of the cities I’m so fond of. Its got a great quality of life, its beautiful, stylish.
Your Favorite dish?
I’m a big comfort food eater, give me a good fish and chips and I’m happy
Your favorite restaurant?
A place that comes to mind is Dean Street Town House, loved it – service is superb. My favorite local restaurant in Crystal Palace is called Joanna’s – lovely neighborhood restaurant.
You can contact James here