Surf Shacks 081

Read + Annie McKendree
Westerly, RI

Read McKendree

Read is a classic New Englander. Having made a career of shooting high-end and boutique interiors, his home is a reflection of his passion for coastal aesthetics and timeless design. I met Read serendipitously through this Surf Shacks project several years ago, right before the first book went to press. I loved his photography and it was a perfect fit: an East Coast surfer who is a wizard at shooting homes. We hit it off immediately and our collaboration was to be the beginning of a great cross-country friendship. Read, his wife, Annie, and daughter, Camille, come out and stay with us during winters in California, and we’ll go out to Rhode Island and stay with them in the fall. We’ve shared epic surf sessions (and meals) together on both coasts. I hope that this will forever stay a thing. Read has contributed some of the best photos in the latest Surf Shacks book—most notably those pictured here of his own home.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Nick Ventura
Read McKendree

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Westerly?

I grew up in a small town near Hartford, Connecticut, and started coming to Rhode Island in the summers when I was young. We had a boat and would spend weekends on that, hanging on the beach all day, cooking dinner on a little grill, and taking the dinghy into town for ice cream. My family bought some land and built a house in Westerly when I was in first grade, and it’s really felt like home ever since then. Annie and I were long distance—she was living in Salt Lake City and I was in New York City—when we decided to move to Westerly around 2012 and start our life together.

When did you first get into photography?

I’m so lucky to have gone to a public high school that promoted the arts and gave kids access to different mediums, including a darkroom. I started shooting surfing, skateboarding, and landscapes, all on 35 mm and medium format. My friends and I used to make surf and skate movies in the summer. I was really inspired by the surf film Shelter and would dream of our stretch of beach as a desolate point break somewhere in Australia. When I was 16, I went to a Jack Johnson concert and gave him a VHS copy of a video I’d made. I still wonder if he ever watched us bodyboarding waist-high wind chop. By junior year, I knew I wanted to go to film school and try to make a life with photography at the core. I studied photography at Ithaca College in Upstate New York, and had some wonderful professors there who really expanded my understanding of the art form.

When and how did you find your niche shooting mostly architecture and interiors?

For a college photo project, I used a four-by-five camera to shoot some rooms at a beautiful inn down the road from my school. They hired me to come back and shoot the rest of the spaces later that semester. It was an early lesson in having a schedule, shot list, and client expectations! Right out of school, I jumped into shooting whatever gigs I could get: women’s clothing, machinery parts, and mail order catalog decor—“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” signs. It taught me a lot about the business of photography, managing a workflow, and keeping my clients happy. I learned about lighting from assisting incredible photographers like Tina Barney and Bruce Weber, all of whom were hugely influential. Through all the random jobs I was doing, designers and architects would consistently call me. My dad always told me to pay attention to the clues and let them guide you in a direction. Space and the built environment have always been really inspirational to me, and I think in some way I was meant to work in the sphere of interiors and architecture. I’ve been following the clues ever since.

Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree
Read McKendree

When and how did you get into surfing?

I grew up around water and started on a bodyboard when I was young, pulling into closeouts at my local beach. Eventually, when I was 18 or so, a good friend convinced me to try standing up. He showed me new waves in our town and eventually up and down the Rhode Island coast. So many of my friendships over the years have been cemented by a mutual love of water.

What are your favorite parts about the area where you live?

Westerly is a pretty small town. I’ve always preferred living in a tight community where every dollar spent at a local business feels like it’s helping out in some way. We also live a few minutes from beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and an amazing network of trail riding.

What do you want people to know about Rhode Island?

Rhode Island is a special place. We have fun waves, great seafood, and lots of open space for hiking and biking. Living in New England year-round can be tough—there are lots of cold, gray days. With that, though, comes a vibrancy. Watching shuttered summer towns come to life in the spring is just as thrilling as seeing the daffodils poke through the ground. The sum- mer landscape hums with beauty, exhausts itself with one last hurrah in the fall, and slips back into its winter slumber. This ebb and flow keeps things interesting in a really subtle way.

What’s it like being a surfer in New England?

The waves can get really good here but it is important to have a well-rounded quiver. We can go a month without seeing anything over waist-high. And when a proper swell does pop up, there may only be a four-hour window where tides and winds align. However, in the winter months, you can surf some really amazing waves with just the people you showed up with. Not being able to surf every day can be a blessing, really. It allows us to stay focused on work, family, and other responsibilities—and then drop everything for a few hours when it gets good. And when it does turn on, it feels like that much more of a reward.

Discover more creative surfers’ homes in our books; Surf Shacks® Vol. 1, and Vol. 2 out now!


Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio and now resides a bit further north in Oxnard.

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