You know how you’ll occasionally hear a person described as “a force of nature”? Well, unless the person in question is Wendy Lewis, what you’re hearing is a gross exaggeration. I interviewed one of Wendy’s bands, Redstart, several years ago and found her no-nonsense demeanor, frank curiosity, and blinding talent to be an irresistible combination. She is absolutely magnetic, my friends. Merely being in her presence makes you feel like you can take over the world. And that you probably should. We kept in touch long after the interview was published. She continually surprises and delights me with her generosity, wit, and enthusiasm for life, and my respect for her has only grown.
Wendy has been a musician and performer for many years, and eventually began doing stylist work as well. She’s done table-top soft and hard lines, rooms and figure for clients like Olson & Co., BBDO, Knock, Target, Marshall Fields, River’s End, Little & Co., Shop NBC, 8th Street Studios, Twist Films, Christopher Banks and a host of other clients. Having only ever done one-on-one client styling myself, I was curious to get a peek into the world of commercial photography styling, and thought you all might like to take a peek with me. So I asked Wendy to write a little about her experiences, and she kindly obliged!
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It was a cold and snowy week in December. I had been booked by photographer John Wallace to prop and style a job for a local realty company who was working with a highly regarded agency to produce and art direct the shoot. The budget was very tight for propping, often the case these days.
We had four shots to pull off in two days in three locations; a rigorous, ambitious schedule when you consider how much gear has to be hauled in, clothing and accessories laid out for selection, models dressed, shots zeroed in and lighting placed. All this has to happen prior to pointing a camera at anything. Then, there is the rush to pack up and load out for the next location. Before any of this happens, however, a lot of shopping has to be done. My adrenaline was already surging at the pre-production meeting and I knew I had a big job on my hands.
But, I was excited to shop because it involved finding interesting clothing (‘70’s, 80’s, preppy and club) to dress the models in, even though the stress is off the charts. Why? Everyone on a photo shoot has a picture in their heads—what they are imagining for outcome—most of all, the art directors, who need to be impressed with your work every time you do it. Finding retro clothing locally (not on the internet) is a toss up, not knowing what’s out there when you start the search. But every time I’ve worked a job, miracles occur!
What followed was three maniacal days of 18-hour shopping for clothing, starting at Unique Thrift (Burnsville), which always delivers—this time the man’s snowsuit. I found some unexpected and amazing Ma & Pa thrift stores along my route back to the city where I grabbed lots of blazers, shirts and skirts. I cruised through the ample downtown Salvation Army, Goodwill stores and fave retro boutique shops like Up Six (St. Paul), which saved the day with the woman’s 70’s snowsuit and Moon Boots, and Tatters (Mpls) for men’s shirts. Savers on Lake St. (Mpls) offered the last few things, including cheap jewelry, ties and sundries. On the last day when we were on set for the final shot, I ran to Target for knee socks over lunch and found a perfect stripy beige pair with dingle balls attached. Huh? Who knew those would be there? They offered the finishing touch.
The Twin Cities offer a plethora of ecstatically awesome vintage, retro and used goods stores. From my travels around the country, I’ve found that we are fortunate to have some of the best recycled items at very reasonable prices. So much of what I’ve propped for here would have been twice if not four times the price in coastal cities.
The shoot went very well and everyone was satisfied when the billboards were finally posted along highways and byways around our fair cities.
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For more info on Wendy’s doings and work as a stylist, check out her blog, professional website, and tour website. And for a glimpse into her amazingly creative noggin, check out her conceptual videos on GREEN, RED, and BLUE.