Notable Projects: A Simpler Way of Life by William Morgan and The Bee Cottage Story by Frances Schultz

“The camera doesn’t see how the eye sees,” says Santa Barbara–based photographer Trevor Tondro. “In small spaces, things can get distorted, and it’s all about finding the proper angle and choosing the amount of detail.”

Tondro’s career shooting interior design has occurred in anything but small spaces. His work has been featured in many of the world’s top architectural and interior design magazines. For more than five years he shot regularly for the New York Times’ Home & Garden section, where he photographed such homes as Moby’s Wolf’s Lair in Los Angeles and a Richard Meier–designed house on Fire Island. Aside from working with architects and designers, he contributes to many publications, including Elle Decor, Town & Country, House Beautiful, and Architectural Digest.

Tondro majored in urban design at NYU and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before traveling in Latin America for two and a half years. Those adventures led to his enrolling at Parsons School of Design to study photography upon his return to N.Y.C.

After leaving Parsons, Tondro landed a coveted position assisting Philip-Lorca diCorcia, one of the most influential fine-art photographers in the realm of artificial light. He then assisted the prolific commercial photographer and master of natural light, Martyn Thompson. These valuable apprenticeships gave Tondro an education not only in the professional and commercial side of photography, but also a dual perspective of lighting and contrasts in photography.

Tondro was concentrating on fashion photography when he was offered an opportunity to shoot Leonard Riggio’s house in the Hamptons. “It was this amazing space with a Chagall in the bathroom and Warhols in the living rooms,” said Tondro, who found he was shooting the design concepts that he had long appreciated. “It’s a much quieter, more thoughtful approach, which is much more my personality.”

In 2010, Tondro was hired by House Beautiful to photograph contributing editor Frances Schultz’s cottage in East Hampton for a 10-part column on her renovations. “It was really successful, and everybody loved it,” he says about the series, which, along with Tondro’s photographs, became the basis for Schultz’s recent book, The Bee Cottage Story.

Tondro’s most personal project to date has been his two-and-half-year photographic exploration of 20 rustic farmhouses in New England for the design book A Simpler Way of Life. “It was an amazing opportunity. There was no direction other than to take beautiful photos,” adds Tondro about his work lighting and rearranging the furniture to capture the setting. “I still approach every project with love and enthusiasm, but there was something about that project that will always be magical,” says Tondro.

He currently has a story in C Magazine on Madeline Stewart’s house in Santa Barbara as well as two area homes for the upcoming design issue of Santa Barbara Magazine. When asked if he has any local dream projects he would love to shoot, the Huguette Clark mansion was at the top of his list. “I just want to see it,” says Tondro, reflecting the sentiment of many Santa Barbara residents.


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