Mark Henderson recently left his life in the busy urban surroundings of downtown L.A. behind and moved to a much more quite neighborhood in Texas. The change is dramatic. It isn’t just a radical change of surroundings. It is also the difference between his previously owned Californian home and the spacious suburban Texan house. But one thing that didn’t change is Mark himself. A man’s home says a lot about his character and personality. And so do the people he hangs out with. In Mark Henderson’s case we can safely say that he is doing pretty good. He has impeccable style. Not only for interior and garden design, but for home decoration in the biggest sense.
Mark, 2 years ago you published your first photo book Household Idols. Most of the portraits were shot in your own house in L.A. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea to shoot your men in such a personal and intimate atmosphere?
Mark: Intimate and personal are good words to describe the atmosphere I try to convey in my work so, for me, shooting in a private home is the perfect and most logical setting for my images. After all, where else are people more likely to be lounging around naked than at home! The models should appear at ease, open, and approachable and I want the viewer to be able to imagine themselves in the room with the models; to fantasize that they somehow have direct access to these incredible men. Creating that inviting sense of comfort and luxury that only a home can provide is essential to the intimate mood I hope to express.
Of course, photographing models in a house is nothing new, but shooting them in my own home with my own furnishings and decorative objects creates images with settings that are unique to my work and therefore become highly personal statements. And I must admit, photographing models in my own house offers distinct, practical advantages. Working at home means I don’t have to pack and unpack loads of equipment, lighting, and wardrobe changes from location to location. But more importantly, because I shoot images in which the model must be fully nude and often “aroused”, it is essential that the model feels safe and relaxed and can concentrate without needless distraction. Over the years I’ve photographed models in studios, empty warehouses, the desert, and at the beach, but none of these locations offer the same sort of secure and intimate setting that my own home can provide.
Household Idols has been – and still is – quite a success. How has it influenced you as a person both personal and professional?
Mark: When I first started shooting, having my work published in a coffee table book by Bruno Gmunder was my ultimate goal. At the time it seemed a rather unlikely dream, so you can imagine my thrill at holding a copy of HOUSEHOLD IDOLS in my hands for the first time.That was an unforgettable moment. Sometimes I still can’t quite believe it. Household Idols has inspired and challenged me to constantly refine and develop my craft, and I’m truly grateful for all of the positive feedback I’ve received over the past few months. I even have a few fans now!!!
Last year you bought property in Texas. Even though you are originally from this state, it is still quite a big step from Californian life. What made you decide to do this?
Mark: After living in Southern California for nearly twenty years (and enjoying my time there tremendously) I nevertheless wanted a bit of a change, and at the same time I felt the need to live closer to my family. Heading back to Texas seemed a logical choice. I still have my place in LA and travel back and forth during the year, but I’m spending more and more time in Texas. Shooting models in LA is relatively easy – many models already live there and scores of others pass through Southern California for various reasons so there’s hardly ever a shortage of great guys to photograph. At first I had no idea if I would be able to convince models to come to Texas but I’ve been gratified that so many agreed to make the journey. In fact, it’s been easier for models to travel to Texas, especially ones from the East or the Mid West. I wish I could find more Texas models to photograph. There are great looking guys here, but for the most part I tend to “import” models from other parts of the country (and the world!).
Suburban Pleasures is your second book publication. In general it follows the same concept as Household Idols, except that this time you used your new house in Texas as crime scene. One might think, the idea is repetitive. Can you explain us why everyone who has seen Household Idols absolutely must buy Suburban Pleasures?
Mark: Suburban Pleasures was always intended to be a companion of sorts to Household Idols, not necessarily a continuation but rather an expansion and re-imagining of the theme established in the first book. So if you like HOUSEHOLD IDOLS, then you’ll definitely want to see SUBURBAN PLEASURES. I don’t kid myself, I strongly suspect that most people will buy the book primarily to see the beautiful men (and rightly so!!), but while admiring the sensational physiques, I hope readers will also recognize and enjoy the composition, lighting, and the careful combination of colors I employ to help create all the subtle little stories that each image has to tell.
Well, when you offered us a sneak peak at Suburban Pleasures, we were blown away. I have to admit, it does indeed takes some willpower to drag your eyes away from the beautiful men you – once again – have portrayed, but once you do you realize the settings are very different from your first publication.
Mark: Thank you, thank you!! Indeed, the new house with its large open rooms, contemporary style architecture, and expanses of white walls and glass contrasts sharply with the very small but charming and colorful interiors of my Spanish-style bungalow featured in HOUSEHOLD IDOLS. In fact, this change of setting has opened up a fresh world of aesthetic possibilities and challenges. With the luxury of additional square footage I can now zoom out and shoot models in full-length and experiment more with space and perspective. Whereas the images in HOUSEHOLD IDOLS were a riot of juxtaposed colors, textures, and patterns, the new work is crisper, more streamlined, almost geometric, with a colder light and a reduced color palette, which nevertheless includes pops of vivid, jewel-like tones.
Let’s go a bit closer to home Mark. What is your favorite room in your house, and why?
Mark: My favorite spot to shoot these days is an upstairs room that the previous owners of the house used as a home gym. The space is empty now but two walls covered entirely with mirrors afford me the opportunity to experiment with endless reflections, and natural light enters the room through tall glass doors at one end, bathing the walls and floor with a wonderfully diffused glow, especially in the morning.
What do you wear when you are home alone?
Mark: What am I wearing? Wait…has this interview turned into an obscene phone call? Ha, ha…Of course, I wear silk pajamas with matching velvet slippers (well, perhaps in some alternate universe). But the truth is not particularly glamorous – I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy.
And what do you like to do when you are home alone?
Mark: Okay, now I know this has turned into an obscene phone call! I wish I could say that I lounge around the house like the models in my images, but I primarily spend my time at the computer editing photos, corresponding with models, booking shoots, and arranging flights. I think I need an assistant…
You photograph many gorgeous men. What does the ideal man look like for you, professionally
Mark: Every model is different and brings with them their own unique assets. One of the delightful challenges of my job is to showcase and enhance those strong physical features through lighting, color, and atmosphere. In general I look for defined, well-proportioned physiques, but it’s no secret that I’m a fan of chiseled abs – photographing magnificent 6 or 8 packs is certainly a specialty of mine. Many models joke that long after the shoot they can still here my voice repeating over and over “crunch those abs on 3-2-1-(click)”.
Now if you had to choose one guy from your book to become a full time house boy, who would it be, and what would his task be?
Mark: Interesting question!! That’s easy: Nathan Lewis. I wouldn’t associate the word “houseboy” with Nathan because he’s become such a dear friend of mine and I greatly admire his intelligence and professionalism; but besides being a spectacularly gorgeous man and a superb model, he is an extraordinary cook. Nathan stayed with me while he was in LA last year shooting with various photographers (including me: see BEAUTIFUL VISION for the images), and he created some of the most amazing meals – I haven’t eaten so well in years. He can stay at my house any time!
After Suburban Pleasures, is there a new project in the pipeline for Mark Henderson?
Mark: After finishing SUBURBAN PLEASURES earlier this year, I took an extended, much-needed break from photography. I’ve only just now begun to shoot again, but I’m planning to have enough images for another book this time next year. Hopefully Suburban Pleasures will prove popular enough to warrant another volume. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! –B-
Suburban Pleasures by Mark Henderson is a 112 full colour photobook, 26 x 34 cm / 10.25 x 13.5 inch, with hardcover and dust jacket. The book is edited and published by Bruno Gmünder.
MARK HENDERSON | BEAUTIFUL