September 22, 2023
Here is the House
Hudson Valley, NY
By Sylvia Estes.
Photography by Chris Mottalini.
Chris, Nepal and Nino live in this 1950’s-era stone house in the Hudson Valley.
SE: When / how did you start photographing architecture?
CM: So, it's sort of a long story.....basically, the first time I met my wife was like 15 years ago when we were practically babies and she was working at the Paul Rudolph Foundation in Manhattan. Several of Rudolph's residential projects were in danger of being demolished and she was looking for someone to photograph them. A good mutual friend of ours suggested she reach out to me.....I ended up photographing several incredible Rudolph homes (which eventually became my first book) and that experience put me on the path of photographing architecture and interiors. And that's also how my wife and I got together. So, Paul Rudolph essentially changed my life in several ways from beyond the grave.
SE: Favorite architect? Or designer?
CM: Rudolph and Judd and Nakashima are my holy trinity.
SE: Is there a place you keep going back to that has been particularly interesting to capture?
CM: I suppose I've photographed the Nakashima compound in Pennsylvania more than any other single project (though it's comprised of around 12 buildings). I think I've photographed the compound in all four seasons, even an early spring snowstorm. For the most part, though, I usually have one chance to capture a place and, in a way, that makes the whole experience a bit more fleeting and special. I have to make it count.
SE: What kinds of spaces do you find yourself gravitating towards?
CM: Spaces built and designed by brilliant, somewhat left-of-center people. Places that feel a bit rougher, somewhat handmade. Just real places, which happen to be designed by geniuses, which are inhabited by fascinating people.
SE: People portraits? Or interior portraits?
CM: I actually really like photographing people, but if push comes to shove, for me it's all about portraits of interiors and, by extension, of the inhabitants, though it isn't always necessarily to actually include them, if that makes sense......half the time I find I learn more about people just from documenting how they live.
SE: How do you approach photographing your own space differently than photographing someone else's?
CM: In some ways it's much harder.....I've spent a lot of time photographing our house over the past few years and it just takes way longer and I tend to overanalyze each image way more than I ordinarily would. And because it's my house, I can literally make one single photograph per day, as opposed to fifteen or twenty. So, basically, I get a bit obsessive and take forever.
SE: Tell us about an important piece of art in your home.
CM: So, I have an absolutely incredible crayon turtle piece made by my son at art camp last month... will treasure it till the day I die. I also have a few beautiful paintings by Michael Berryhill, Mason Saltarelli and Strauss Bourque Lafrance that make me super happy. Never thought I'd be lucky enough to buy a piece of art, so kind of blown away by that fact.
SE: If you could photograph anyone’s home (dead or alive) who would it be?
CM: This is a really hard one. Jeez.....gonna have to think on this one today.....cool if i get back to you?
Featuring photographic works by Chris Mottalini and painted furniture by Nate Hill, Like a Living Thing lingers in the poetry of home; how the objects and spaces we surround ourselves with are expressive of our experiences, becoming tangible histories of our intimate lives.