Jessie Graham
Art Director & Prop Stylist

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Jessie Graham

Art Director & Prop Stylist

Los Angeles, CA

www.jessiemaygraham.com
instagram @ohheyjessiemay
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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m an art director with a double life as a photo and prop stylist. I love when those roles combine and I can create content from concept to creation.

As an art director I’ve freelanced with advertising agencies over the past 13 years designing and leading creative campaigns for brands across digital, tv, print and social media.

As a stylist, I create the subject of an image. More specifically, I source the best objects and then arrange them to create the most compelling image possible. I’ve been hired to work on still life shoots for soft goods, cosmetics, food, drinks and botanicals. I have also worked on stop motion and slow motion shoots. I love all of it.
 

WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

Well, I come from a long line of artists so some of it’s in my blood. My mom is an art teacher, my dad is a furniture maker and my grandparents included a weaver, a painter and a ceramist. 
 
In college I studied Visual Communications with a focus on advertising design and I always had a big passion for illustration as well as fine art including 3D work. I got an internship right out of school working for a big agency in NYC. So I was deep into ad agency life for years but I was always drawn to the types of projects where I got to wear more than just my art director hat and “hire” myself as the set designer or illustrator on the project. I took a production design class at SVA and from there I started to assist stylists and work on various sets and shoots. My old advertising partner and I also started a small event and floral design company in Brooklyn. That experience taught me a ton about how much I love working with my hands and served as a reminder to strive for creatively satisfying projects.

 

FOR OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT DO THEY USUALLY LACK?

I don't think it's anyone's fault but it seems like many creative roles have gotten so specialized, specific and often repetitive - they’re a recipe for burnout. I wish we could all take a pause for a summer internship like we did in our youth to mix things up and try new things each year. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve taken risks and experimented with some new things. It’s all generally in the same ballpark - but it’s given me a fresh perspective, more comfort in being uncomfortable and more skills than I would have had otherwise. 

 

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Various still life shoots for brands, assisting other stylists and a lot of test shoots with photographers to build up my contacts and experience. I'm pursuing any project that I think will enhance my growth. I'm taking more leaps, reaching out and staying the path. I think it's important to trust in my own abilities as well as what the universe seems to be telling me, which is a constant practice.

 

WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS? 

I work with a wide array of brands and styles and I think it’s important to be diverse and flexible. But I’d say I most enjoy creating images that have some "soul" to them or invoke a specific mood or feeling. I obsess over detail, but my instinct is to create a sense of spontaneity vs. overall perfection. I’m inherently optimistic and playful so I think that comes through as well. I always have some kind of storyline running in my head as to why something is a certain color or how inanimate objects “feel” based on the way they’re used in a composition.

 

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WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?

More styling for photo shoots and short-form video shoots across different brands that I love. I also love when I get to be both a thinker and a hands-on maker.

 

WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?

Politics.

 

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IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?

Someone that could help me with self promotion, scheduling, invoicing, updating my website, and helping me organize and prioritize all of my different ideas for personal projects. All that extra stuff so I could just focus on the creative work.

 

LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?

I would tell myself to make more conscious decisions about what feeds me creatively without fear and financial worry getting in the way. To make more time for self-discovery, experimentation and side projects as well as to believe in myself more, to take risks and not wait for permission to do what I wanted. 

 

IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?

There are so many little pieces of unique and specific knowledge that you collect as a prop stylist on every job - like where to source a cherimoya in the off-season or who to rent a Nakashima chair from - so I wish I could download those kinds of tidbits from someone like Randi Brookman Harris. She’s my idol. I’d also ask for advice on how to build up my business to the point where clients will work around my schedule because they can’t imagine someone else doing it. And how she balances motherhood and her demanding work. That's a big one.
 

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WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

Hybrid AD/Stylist: I would love to ideate, plan and style creative content for a brand’s social media channels.
 
Styling: I’m always looking to collaborate with photographers on shoots for any of the following categories: beauty, kids, product, soft goods, food, drinks, botanicals, events, and editorial.
 
Art Direction: I always enjoy working in-house or with agencies on fun lifestyle brands that are actively ready to produce creative, visually-appealing work.

 

DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.

I recently styled an event for Darling Magazine, a dream client of mine so I hope to do more with them. And a great example of my art direction and styling skills coming into play simultaneously was when I conceptualized and created the content for Target's instagram feed during the back-to-school season. 
 

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WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE? 

My rate varies because my projects vary. For shorter term projects, like shoots, I have a full day and a half day rates. For longer term projects, like campaign development and execution, we usually work out a day rate and estimate the length of the project. I’m happy to get more specific based on the initial details.

 

HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?

Yay! Email me with some information about the project. And if there isn’t a specific project right now, email me anyway - I love to talk about potential future collaborations.
 

HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Be courageous, have fun, and be nice.

 


This member profile was originally published in June 2017.