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Mary Howard's Top Red Hook Locations

February 19th 2019
Mary Howard is a set and production designer with more than 20 years experience working in print and commercial photography.

Born and raised in New Orleans, she trained first as a painter and performance artist before earning an MFA in Art History and Visual Culture. A hands-on practioner with a painter’s eye for detail, she has worked with many of the world’s most celebrated photographers including Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick DeMarchelier, Steven Klein, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. She has collaborated with leading creative directors in editorial and advertising to create some of the most talked about images of the modern era. Mary’s work is renowned for its richly layered historical references and symbolism, reflecting a fluency in both period and contemporary art and design.

In our February 2019 Scout feature, Mary Howard shares a few of her favorite locations in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Red Hook - Location 2062


What was your route to becoming a production designer?

I was a float builder and prop maker for a variety of clients – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Ringling Brothers and Saturday Night Live. Then when Richard Avedon needed some set pieces, I built them with Marla Weinhoff and that started set design work for Fashion Photography in the very early 90’s.

What have been your career highlights?

I think working with Annie Leibovitz, going to the White House three times, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. To be in these grand buildings was a real honor and pleasure. You dream about what these places are like inside and in the gardens, etc. So to see the reality is very special.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere! It comes where you least expect it like a fabulous pile of junk on the sidewalk! Or a gorgeous in progress painting in my husband’s studio. Or the sunset in Red Hook, crazy light here!

How long have you lived in Red Hook and what is it about the community you love?

We have lived here since 2005. Everyone knows everyone. It really feels like a small seaside village. There are few tall buildings so lots of light and air and sky. Everyone tries to be a good neighbor, which is not always easy since we have heavy industry and residential mixed together. And so many people know about Hook Studio, I can call them at a moments notice to come help out if we need say an artist or specialty carpenter or a last minute craftsperson to quickly make some origami animals.

Red Hook - Location 2054

Red Hook - Location 8391

What drew you to the houses you selected?

My friend, also a set designer, called me one morning when she saw this Red Hook Townhouse on cover of the NY times in the real estate section. It was an article about Red Hook and showing this townhouse for sale. We were looking for a ready to move in house in this area at the time and it was perfect.


Architecturally what inspires you and what makes you choose a certain location?

The light probably, skylights, windows that inform the light is inspiring. The light sculpts the space in a way. And spaces that have an age and patina. Also, room to move around where there are areas near the shoot space that we can feed in props as we like.

If you weren’t a Production Designer what would you like to do?

I love tasks, multitasking, so I think something like being a mom of several kids and having to juggle many plates – kind of like what I do now with my team where we have to prep several jobs at once. We have one grown daughter but my favorite thing when she was in school was that I would have to be on set working but also try to get her the volleyball uniform she forgot at home. And to also go see the game!

Red Hook - Location 4007

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