Martyn Thompson lives and works in a classic New York loft on one of Soho’s hippest streets. It is the sort of space you would imagine a high-profile photographer would inhabit, with high ceilings, industrial-like spaces and natural light cascading through vast windows. But that is where the cliché ends.
Martyn is far from stereotypical. In fact, he is more like a forest-dwelling leprechaun: mischievous and magical, with a penchant for the colour green and a strong connection with nature.
Mid-point in his high-profile career he realized that many of his fondest memories were from the late seventies when he embraced grass-roots creativity. He promptly decided to swap an unenviable list of bad habits, with the habit of making things by hand. On my first visit to his studio, Martyn was swathed in hand-painted clothes that he had sewn himself. “Making clothes is my idea of meditating,” says Thompson. Many of his creations including pillow covers, clothes and props are featured in international exhibitions and in campaigns for clients such as Tiffany & Co. and Gucci.
His latest project, ‘Interiors’, is a coffee-table book showcasing images taken in the homes of notable people. The images seamlessly draw us in to the their subjects’ worlds, whether it’s a late night dinner with Elsa Peretti in her Catalan villa, or a walk through the home of Anna Sui. Martyn’s love of colour embraces both the almost monochromatic interiors of Vincent Van Duysen and the deep red he found in the home of Johansson D’Agostin. Even at Martyn’s dinner table, ingredients are chosen with their hue in mind, ‘He never mixes red and green in his salads’ writes Ilse Crawford in the book’s foreword.
Martyn’s Beaux-Arts style studio is housed in the ‘The Little Singer’ building, designed in 1902 by Ernest Flagg. It is a landmark early skyscraper of historic significance with a façade that combines wrought-iron tracery detailing with terracotta brick.
His space is divided in two. Studio, kitchen and entertaining areas encompass the public areas and beyond a dividing wall are the private bedroom, sitting area and bathroom. There’s an eclectic feeling, with collected treasures from each of the cities he has lived in – Sydney, Paris, London and New York. There are overlapping floor rugs in variations of green and layers of bed linen in shades of grey and Gustavian blue. His sitting area features a Gio Ponti sofa and matching armchairs with other favourite pieces from Todd Merrill, Paula Rubenstein Limited and John Derian.
Equally at home in the centre of one of the world’s most densely populated cities as he is in gatherings with friends in the middle of a forest, Martyn is a rare breed as an artist, creating images and environments that are an honest expression of his unique view of the world.