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In Conversation With Ed Reeve of Blackwood House (Part 1) | Location Agency Blog | 1st Option

In Conversation With Ed Reeve of Blackwood House (Part 1)

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Rob – “We recently sat down with Ed Reeve, the owner of the Iconic Blackwood House, situated in North London. In an incredibly insightful interview, we spoke to Ed about his job as an architectural photographer, his design style, how he built his incredible home and what it’s like to be a shoot location owner. So without further ado, let’s get straight into it.”

Rob – “Hi Ed, how’re you doing today?”

Ed – “Very well thank you, has been a nice day for the shoot.”

Rob – “It certainly has, the weather has been on our side.”

Rob – “So, can you tell me a little bit about what you do for a living?”

Ed – “I’m an architectural and interiors photographer. I shoot for luxury and leisure brands, so I shoot fashion retail, restaurants, hotels, but I also do museum exhibition photography, residential and public buildings as well.”

Ed’s incredible photography taken in Jalakara and Ossington Street

Rob – “That sounds fascinating, how long have you been doing it for?”

Ed – “I’ve been taking pictures professionally for around 25 years.”

Rob – “Wow, amazing, so how did you get into it?”

Ed –“How did I get into photography? To be honest, I think it all started when I was a kid, I was always making pictures with my eyes through windows and frames, even without a camera. My parents obviously spotted what I was doing, so they quickly bought me a camera, as they realised I clearly had this eye to frame things [laughter].”

Omnia in Bali and Sketch in London

“So following that, I started it properly at the end of school, doing a diploma in photography, while I was doing my A Levels. I then got into Art college and did an Art foundation that specialised in photography and film. Went to uni and got a degree in photography and then after that, I actually got my first commission straight out of uni, so I didn’t take the normal route of assisting, which actually threw me a little at the start.”

“I did a fashion shoot for a hat designer who found a postcard I’d had printed for my end of uni show; I did a fashion campaign for her and just started getting work from there. I never assisted, so I kind of just made it up as I went along. I still don’t really know what I’m doing [laughter], but here we are 25 years later.”

Ed’s photography – Kvadrat HQ and Kubrick Exhibition

Rob – “So, speaking of 25 years later, how long have you been a location owner?”

Ed – “So we’ve been in this house for fifteen years and a location house for fourteen of those years. The only reason we actually didn’t start sooner was because the house wasn’t ready. We moved in and the interior was still a bit of a building site.”

The one-of-a-kind Blackwood House

Rob – “1st Option were one of the first companies to start the industry around twenty years ago, so you’ve been around since the very early days”

Ed – “Yes, there are so many location agencies now, but there really are only a few that are ‘professional agencies’. And they’re the ones we like to work with most. My advice for anyone who wants to become a location house – go with the big professional agencies that have years of experience, like 1st Option. They’re the companies that will bring you the most work, they’re the companies that will look after you. And to be honest, it’s the smaller agencies that can actually lose you money. They might book you up for days and days, not be on the ball and forget to let you know that the client has released. You then find out those days are now free at the last minute, meaning you miss out on other potential shoots. It’s all those little things that are incredibly important and make the difference.”

Rob – “What encouraged you to start taking shoots 14 years ago?”

Ed – “Well, I used to shoot a lot of lifestyle, renting all these location houses. So I quickly built a picture of what worked and what didn’t. One of the reasons I actually decided to take a minimalist approach here was that, when I got to shoots, the location would be wonderful with all this amazing ephemera – you’d be like wow, all these objects are fascinating – but they were all very personal and not right for our shoot. So, we’d often spend the first hour of our day moving other people’s stuff, which is a waste of your shoot time. I thought to myself, this doesn’t work, so I decided if I were to do it, minimalism would be the way forward. We have personal items, but we keep them away, out of sight or in one of our many storage units around the house. But I do think minimalism is really good for a shoot location; just concentrate on creating interesting angles and potential for creative shots.”

Minimalist interiors in Blackwood House

Rob – “So I’m guessing you had becoming a shoot location in mind, prior to building?”

Ed – “I did yes, absolutely! First and foremost, it’s our home, so that was the priority, but David and I did work very carefully on the direction of the light during the day, trying to maximise that, whilst creating interesting angles.”

“Actually, touching on your question earlier about if the colour black was always in mind for the cladding, I always wanted the house to be wood, so we decided to clad the exterior like this. We were going to leave it in its natural state, however, we found that the exterior weathered very quickly and unevenly, even while we were still building. It looked scruffy and patchy, so David came up with the idea of staining it. We tried out all these samples from brown all the way to black and it was an easy decision in the end. It actually works perfectly for shoots, it’s a very neutral colour that you can put any fashion against and it will look great.”

The striking black cladding on show at Blackwood House

Rob – “I think it ties in perfectly with the minimalist aesthetic as well.”

Rob – “So, moving on, what’s been your favourite shoot to date?”

Ed – “Oh wow, we’ve had so many, occasionally we get to meet celebrities – we try to stay out the way, but occasionally you open the door to them. There was this one time, however, where David Attenborough turned up to the shoot and the crew weren’t ready for him. So I greeted him, brought him in and made him a cup of tea. He’s exactly how you would imagine him to be, extremely interested in everything, and had loads of questions about the house and me and the family. He’s just genuinely interested in what you have to say. We told him we had a three day old baby at the time, so he asked to meet her; we now have a photo with David Attenborough holding our three day old baby.”

David Attenborough holding Ed’s three day old baby girl

“The nice thing is, pretty much every shoot we have here is interesting. If you want a unique shoot location, it’s normally for an interesting reason.”

“Another cool shoot we had here was Stormzy. He was a really nice and decent bloke. The whole crew were. After that, we had loads of grime shoots, we became the house of grime. We’d always joke after they left, we’d say we’re cleaning up the scene of the grime [laughter]. So we had all the grime shoots here, but what we found funny was on camera they try to give off this persona of gang culture and such, but in reality, they’re all really lovely people, very polite and respectful of your home.”

Mo Stack and Stormzy – Shine Girl, shot at Blackwood House

Rob – “I guess to make it in that industry, having the drive to get out of the rough areas they’ve grown up in, means they must be decent people”

Ed – “I guess, not always, but to be successful in any industry, it pays to be nice. We had Gillian Anderson here recently for NET-A-PORTER and we couldn’t hear all of it, but she was so lovely to everyone. You could tell that she didn’t think she was above anyone. It’s a breath of fresh air when you have that level of fame and it still hasn’t gone to your head. There was a really nice atmosphere around her.”

Rob – “So what exactly encouraged you to sign up with 1st Option?”

Ed – “So I guess it’s what I touched on earlier, 1st Option’s reputation on being one of the most widely known and most used agencies in the country. I think I had also booked locations with you guys before, so I knew you were reputable. Before I started, I didn’t really know much about any of the agencies, but working with 1st Option is and has been great since the start. It’s the professionalism and care you get; the little things, however small you think they may be. For example, as small as putting the client name in the subject heading of an email. So many other agencies will just put things like ‘stills shoot’ or ‘new enquiry’ and it’s like they’re all new enquiries and shoots, how do you expect us to rifle through all the enquiries we get and find the right one, especially if they are all titled the same thing. We might have a couple shoots a week, but we might have five enquiries a week, so it can get frustrating trying to go through all the emails.”

Exterior and interior at Blackwood House

“The communication at 1st Option is also amazing, you guys keep us informed on the status of the shoot every step of the way, even if the client hasn’t made a decision yet. Just getting an email once a week keeping us informed with where the client is at, goes a very long way.

“A lot of these new agencies will get in touch, say a month before a shoot, we pencil in the date, a month will go by with no word. Inevitably we then have to turn down other shoots because of this, as we had a 1st with the original company. It comes to the week of the shoot, we email to see what’s going on and they get back to us saying ‘oh that was pulled weeks ago, very sorry.’ We then lose out on another shoot, which is very annoying. Just having that level of professionalism makes a huge difference.”

Rob – “That’s everything from me Ed, is there anything else you wanted to add?”

Ed – “If I wanted to give advice to anyone thinking of renting out their home as location, I’d say work with the top agencies, they will get you the most work and are the most professional. There are the other agencies, they may get you one or two shoots a year but stick with the people who know what they’re doing.”

“Have a collection of teas, as the models like their herbal teas and have a good stock of builders tea, milk, coffee, sugar etc – make sure you look after the crews. Have some house rules, they will change over time as you get more shoots. But, it’s not just rules, it’s about having some information so the crews know where things are and how things work. Then they don’t have to keep troubling you while everyone’s working.”

Stay tuned for the second part of this amazing interview! In part two we will be diving into Ed’s design style, how it influenced his one-of-a-kind home and the work that went into building such a unique property.