Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham for the Sunday Times

Mark Billingham for the Sunday Times

I was asked to make a portrait for the Sunday Times (London) of British crime writer Mark Billingham. Billingham has a vacation home in Sarasota, Florida for when he isn’t working in London. Excuse me… It’s a “Holiday” home. The Sunday Times editor sent me some great examples of past work for the Homes section, which I was working for. The magazine needed some portraits of Mark and his family and some interiors of the home.

I did some research for the photo shoot by visiting Mark’s website and finding the home on Google Maps.

I called Mark on the way down from Orlando to Sarasota. I left nice and early. We scheduled an 11am meeting at his home on Wednesday, July 25th. The Billingham’s couldn’t have been any more pleasant. I had to turn down multiple offers of tea. I felt bad, but I’ve never been a tea or coffee drinker.

Their home was beautifully decorated with a British and holiday theme. There were portraits of writers, the Queen, punk rockers and more. I loved the British flag over a couch and an antique sign they purchased at a yard sale over the master bed. They also had an older London subway map in the master bathroom. Claire, his wife, pointed out many decorations in the home including some Ringling Brothers art and statues of monks. Other things that caught my eye were a wooden chicken sitting atop the fireplace mantle, a colorful “Hamburgers, Ice Cream, Malts” sign and antique Pepsi memorabilia in the kitchen and a cow skull in the living room.

I asked Claire if it was weird having a photographer photograph every room in their home and she replied, “no, we’re used to it.” She even kicked her son out of his room so I could go in for a few minutes. (Sorry Jack!) I also asked Claire how many books Mark has sold. She didn’t know either, so she went to ask him. She returned and said “seven million.” I was really impressed with the figure, but Mark has another book coming out soon, and the number will rise.

Since I grew up in Maine, I brought up the only fiction crime writer I knew… Stephen King. I got the chance to photograph King before the start of a Rays and Red Sox game many years ago. King also has a home near the Billingham’s, and Claire said she’s seen him out and about a few times but has never said hello. (I’d love to get back to the Sarasota area to make a portrait of Mr. King! Hint Hint.)

I then made portraits with my Profoto 7B and Elinchrom Octobank of the family and Mark alone. We started in the kitchen, moved to the living area, then near the pool and finally in the front yard. We had a few wardrobe changes during the session much to Mark’s dismay. We also loosened up their French doors so they both open!

The clip is from the Sunday, August 5 edition of the Sunday Times in London, England.

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