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Gretchen Bell is a wardrobe and prop stylist based in Seattle. Her client list includes Kraft, Levi’s, Target, Chevrolet, Amazon, Omni Resorts and Tommy Bahama. To see more of her work, visit: www.gretchenbell.com
In some ways, I feel I was destined to become a stylist. As a child, I was always wearing fashion trends before anyone else and modeling in local fashion shows. When I was about 13, I remember reading an article in Seventeen Magazine about the woman who was the stylist for The Cosby Show and thinking that would be my dream job, little did I know!
In college, my major was television Communications, so my career began working in video production as a production assistant and doing graphics for the news at the NBC station in Minneapolis. I then spent several years working as a modeling agent, before taking a job as a studio manager and producer for a successful advertising photographer, Craig Perman. It was there that I began styling commercial photo shoots for many large national and international clients and really learned about all aspects of production. So my whole career has really been about seeing things in a visual way.
In a great photograph everything matters, the color of a shirts, the kind of coffee cup, the style of the shoe, the position of the elements to one another. Everything in a photograph is helping to convey a client’s message or tell a story and that is my job. That is the fun and the challenge of being a stylist. What is going to make a photograph funny or moody or nostalgic and how are my props and wardrobe going to help do that? People don’t realize I might spend hours looking for just the right underwear that will be funny on teenage boys or searching for the perfect feathers for a still life shoot because it all matters. That is why stylists bring so many choices to the set for every shoot, so we can figure out what best helps tell the story.
It is very much a collaboration to tell a great story and it’s not always successful. Everyone is bringing something to the table at the shoot and when we all have a clear and concise vision, I think then it makes for a great photograph. As a stylist, I am coming to a shoot with my interpretation of what my client wants, but also run through a filter of my personal style. If a client wants playing cards, there are lots of playing card options out there. It is really fun to see a shoot come together successfully and see how elements from each member of the crew helped create that moment.
To me being a stylist is really about being part of a team; I can’t do my job without the rest of the crew. My props and wardrobe are only as good as the talent booked for the shoot, the lighting, the photographer, the makeup artist, the vision of the client and the layouts. Again, everything matters.