Bryan Regan Visits Keith Melton’s Spy House for ForbesLife

January 7, 2013

By Jacqui Palumbo

© Bryan Regan

Author-collector Keith Melton in his driveway at dusk.

Last summer, Bryan Regan had a unique opportunity to photograph a home that contains more than 37 secret concealments and the world’s largest private collection of spy memorabilia, the home of author-collector Keith Melton. With 25 nonfiction books on espionage under his belt and an appetite for obtaining historically related artifacts and documents, Melton’s home reflects the breadth of his fixation on the subject. He owns over 9,000 physical artifacts, such as the ice axe used to kill Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, and more than 8,600 literary volumes, making his personal home the second-largest intelligence library in the world.


Hidden bookcase (top), library with Cold War artifacts (bottom).
© Bryan Regan

ForbesLife was set to run a full feature on Melton’s home and Regan was connected to the job through his rep, Wonderful Machine. Initially, Photo Director Robyn Selman and Art Director Robert Mansfield expected four images to run, but it was extended to a portrait of the author and 16 images of the home to show off the full impact of the house. “You should see the outtakes,” Regan says. “I’m not sure how they decided what images to run [since] everything had a great story behind it.”

Reclaimed fighter jet seats turned barstools.
© Bryan Regan

Regan and his assistant rented a large SUV and packed strobes, hot lights, a seamless, blackout cloth and anything they thought they might need and made the trip down to Boca Raton, Florida, where Melton’s home is located. The first evening, he photographed Melton in a trench coat at dusk to emulate the spy persona. The following morning he photographed the interiors and details of his home. 

Before the shoot, Melton took Regan on a two-hour tour, which Regan called “fascinating.” “I tell people you get out of it what you put into it and he puts everything into it,” Regan says. He describes Melton as quiet and thoughtful, proud of his home and his collection. Some of the details Regan photographed include a 6-foot model airplane that once sat in Howard Hughes’s office, reclaimed fighter jet seats turned barstools, a WWII-era coffin trolley turned coffee table, a secret bookcase and an entire museum of Cold War spy memorabilia. The compelling look into the home of the author-collector ran in the December 2012 issue of ForbesLife.

For more of Bryan Regan’s work, visit his Web site.

Exterior of house (top) and bedroom (bottom).
© Bryan Regan