kudos to the stylist.

•  20.July.2012

I’ve spent the last (almost) two years searching. Searching for that perfect creative fit. Over and over and over again I’ve come back to one simple word : styling. BUT, so simple?? No, not really at all. Styling is something that I don’t think a lot of people really think about. We flip through magazines, pin away on Pinterest and become infatuated with the beauty of photographs…but do we ever consider the person OR people behind the photograph? Not just the one who took the picture but the one who created/made the picture?

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt comfortable mentioning it on my blog, but in a moment of transparency, I’ve often been frustrated that in this crazy visual world we live in, crediting the stylist isn’t always top priority (I’m equally guilty of this lack of crediting on this blog). Stylists are imperative in the world of visual arts and I don’t think they get enough kudos for what they do. Styling is really tough AND often a mentally/physically straining form of work. For example last week I was on my driveway creating this image, and my neighbor saw me in the process on her way out for a jog. When she first saw me on all fours, strained across a pile of stuff she asked “oh hey what are you up to?” I explained and she went on her way. She came back from her run over an hour later and said “you’re STILL out here?” In that moment I realized she had no idea how much time/work & body aches go into styling. It’s not an easy thing to make a photograph look aesthetically appealing to the human eye. As evidenced by my neighbors response to my own styling practice, there can often be the impression that beautiful photographs just happen. A photographer shows up and voila…a pretty picture is made. YES – this CAN happen, and it often does. But there is ALSO often someone behind the scenes, someone who will never have their name attached to the photograph, someone who carried in all of the materials, tweaked a models collar, steamed a dress, sprayed water on a set of vegetables to make them look fresh, spent hours upon hours standing, craning their neck, and pushing their body to painful limits to get that perfect shot.

Take this picture for example. I could count AT LEAST 10 different places where I believe a “stylist” mentality was put into place. Although this appears to be a “simple” photograph (there aren’t a whole lot of items, there are no people in the image, the coloring is muted and organic, the items in the pictures are relatively mundane…something we see often…sugar, coffee, a newspaper), BUT look closer. #10 – Do you notice how the measuring spoons are not just plopped down next to the side of the sugar bowl, but are actually engaging in an “action” in the photograph? #3 – the handle of the coffee carafe is made visible. That handle could have just as easily been placed out of frame and it would have adjusted the entire dynamic of the photo. Without that handle in that space, the picture might have felt a bit empty in the top/center portion of the image. The beauty of the handle and its play on the rest of the colors in the image would have also been lost. #1 There is someone else in this photograph/this scene/this story…i.e. the stylist imagined that this was not a table just set for one, but for two. That changes things a bit doesn’t it? Changes how we might interpret or FEEL about the image. We imagine this in a different setting, possibly including verbal conversation, rather than if it was simply one person sitting there with their morning coffee and paper…there is added dimension…added personality to the photo. #4 / #5 / #8 Positioning and amount. The newspaper could have easily been opened wide. Or folded horizontally vs. vertically. That coffee cup could have been empty (not yet filled, or maybe just emptied…awaiting a refill). The liquid could have consumed half the mug instead of most of it. How might that have adjusted the image? The coffee mugs handle is outside the edges/lines of the paper making it completely visible…adding additional depth to the image. #2 If we imagine this as a wood table, a couple seated for breakfast, were the lines of the table intentionally positioned vertically? What if they had been horizontal? Probably wouldn’t look quite right then would it? How would that alone change the photograph?

Long story short….beautiful images don’t just happen. Someone puts intention into them. Tweaks them, edits them before a camera is even pulled into action…imagines a story or setting in their head to make them seem more realistic and not so staged. And I believe this thing called styling is an ART FORM. And an art form, maybe even a science that I am NOT an expert or formally trained at by any means. Styling to me is something that just makes my heart sing…sing one of those Mary Poppins kinda songs that you can’t get outta your head but you actually really don’t want to cause it makes you smile. AND I’m pretty sure I’m working my way (albeit slowly at times) to becoming a full-fledged stylist. I’m REALLY excited about some future styling opportunities in the coming months, all of which I believe are in place to help me along that path towards a career in styling. I mentioned it a bit on twitter earlier this week but one of those opportunities is Joy Thigpen‘s styling workshop in late August in Atlanta, Georgia. Joy is someone I have admired and been inspired by from a distance for longer than I can remember. She is a stylist and the Creative Director behind Once Wed and as self-proclaimed on her bio she transitioned from “taking pictures to making them”. Making them she does, and she does a damn fine job of it. Her aesthetic and taste in beauty is SPOT on, her eye like nothing I’ve ever seen. She consistently creates images that make me want to dress in all white and skip through a field of daisies. Her talent is expansive and I feel so blessed and honored to learn from her in just a couple of weeks.

So, in all that said, styling is awesome. And necessary. And beautiful. And I’m pretty sure it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. There are a multitude of stylists out there - this gal, this gal & this fab lady - merely a small does of those who inspire me often and are making BEAUTIFUL images happen. So I encourage you the next time you look at a pretty photograph or “pin” something pretty on pinterest to consider the people who made that image possible…the ones who dreamed it up. The photographer of course, YES by all means, but also imagine that stylist too. Don’t forget to give kudos to the stylist.

photo and styling cred : {v.k.rees photography}

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6 Comments

Yes. I love this post. It is so true. Love your work darling.

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LOVE THIS POST JENN!!! So, so spot on.

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20.July.2012

great post Jenn. i’ve been wrestling with my own dreams to make my love for and knack at styling into what i actually do for a living. it seems a long road to that place. thanks for calling out to all who read your blog the importance of a stylist in those images we all fawn over.

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20.July.2012

Thank you so much for this post. You’ve articulated beautifully and with a beautiful and beautifully styled photo what I think and feel about styling. Styling is one of the reasons that I love certain photography so much and why I can stop and stare at certain window display for a long time. It’s such a work of creation to style an area.

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What a great post, Jenn! I love styling photographs for my work because it such a fun creative process but no doubt about it, it is hard work. For that reason when I do a more involved shoot, having someone else style them is both a load off of my shoulders AND a joy to watch as I get to see someone else’s vision of what my work means or the emotions it evokes to them. Thank you for this fabulous, well articulated post!

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25.July.2012

Thank you so much ladies! Styling is such an important aspect to our creative world and I’m glad to hear there are so many amazing women out there with the same feelings as mine! Thanks for reading :)

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