Rooms & Gardens
My Favorite Five
Words and images by Mark Luscombe-Whyte
Renowned interiors photographer, Mark Luscombe-Whyte, opens his archives and shares five of the most memorable places he's photographed during a lifetime of capturing beauty
1. The Privy Chamber of Sultan Murad III, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
After nearly four years of organising permissions to photograph the Topkapi Palace, they finally arrived and this ended up being my first shoot for Cabana Magazine. There is something wonderful about being able to spend time alone in a space like this. The chamber is the oldest and finest surviving room in the Harem and was built by the master architect, Sinan. It is decorated in blue, white and coral red Iznik tiles from the 16th-century. It is one of the most splendid examples of the classical Ottoman architecture of the late 16th-century.
2. The British Residency, Hyderabad, India
To me this staircase is everything I love about photography. You have light, form, composition and patina, but also a story. In this case, the story is of the tragic love affair and marriage between the British Resident, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, and Khair-Um-Nissa, a Sayyida noblewoman. The story is too long to tell here, but you may know it from William Dalrymple’s excellent book, White Mughals.
We were very fortunate to get this shot as the Residency was being restored; you can see the first bit of scaffolding going up in the bottom left of the image and, a few days later, this went forever. While the staircase still exists, it is now restored and covered in shiny white plaster.
3. The Kartzer, or students' prison, Heidelberg University, Germany
On the day after our first lockdown in 2020, I set off in my car to drive from my home in the south of France to Heidelberg, Germany. The next morning, in the middle of a ferocious thunderstorm, I was let into the old students' prison and left there for the day.
I found myself surrounded by the ghosts of the previous inhabitants, students who had been sent there for various misdeeds and who spent their time embellishing every surface with pictures and portraits using ink, soot, pencil and blue and green chalks. The result is a single work of art made by countless hands over many years.
4. The home of Mark Broch and Geert Post, Gouda, Netherlands
The blue dining room in the home of Mark Broch and Geert Post dates from 1740. There is so much to love about this space, the light, the blue damask walls, the elegant Neoclassical furniture and the paintings that adorn the walls. It is a home that puts the Max into Maximalism with its layers and collections and it is full of surprises and hidden corners and the interior feels as if it has been there for centuries when in fact it was only finished four years ago. To me, that is a sign of a great and passionate designer at work.
5. Cloister of Silence, Monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra
On a cold and wet December day in Coimbra you turn a corner and once again find an image that you love. As I have written about these five spaces, my 'favorite five', I have come to realise that it's not just the spaces that are important, but also the people who inhabited them before; when the past and the present come together in a single image, something great happens.
The cloisters here are a decoration of laurel leaves, built in the early 16th-century, carved from stone and designed by Marcos Pires. They are lined with 16th-century Azulejos and just out of sight are a pair Renaissance tombs belonging to two of the monastery’s priors. We are surrounded by ghosts; I think they would like the fact that we can still feel them.
Recommended: Discover an unseen Renzo Mongiardino-designed apartment in Paris, photographed by Mark Luscombe-Whyte, in Cabana Issue 17.