Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here's a New Idea: Monotasking

(This is actaully an article I wrote a couple of years ago, pre-blog-time, and posted to my Cox Productions site. It is still searchable on the Web!)

The term multitasking dates back to the 1960s and is defined as “the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer.” Sometime more recently we humans took on this process and, in an effort to makes our lives run more efficiently, started multitasking. We are proud that we can perform like a computer.

Talking on a cell phone is a common contributor to multitasking, and it’s easy to do. Anyone who has one is likely to use it without thinking twice. Sometimes three women will be walking down the street together but two are on their phones. The third has the courtesy (or lack of popularity) not to be on the phone, but has no one to talk to. Why don’t they talk to each other?

Recently, I went into a clothing store to shop for a pair of yoga pants and noticed that I was not among the majority of shoppers, those browsing while talking on the phone. Isn’t it hard enough to find what you want and in your size? Later the same day in a grocery store I overheard one side of a conversation featuring details of a fibroid tumor operation. Didn’t make me feel like planning menus.

Other abuses in multitasking are drivers performing other tasks like applying makeup or eating fast food, children playing hand-held games while spending quality time with their parents, or families watching movies while driving through attractive countryside. There are things to see outside of a car window; even graffiti and other drivers can be interesting.

Multitasking can even be dangerous! It occurred to me how unaware we are of surroundings, when I saw a report about safety awareness for women, suggesting that we not walk in a deserted parking garage while talking on a cell phone. And how many times have we all concluded a phone conversation in the car and realized we didn’t even remember driving?

The deadline for writing my book, “Photo Styling, How to Build Your Career and Succeed,” was a short five months. When writing on the computer or proofreading printed pages I went into another world where interruptions were very jarring. If someone asked me a question, the words sounded alien. But I was used to it - the work involved in styling fashions and products for photography takes concentration. When I’m at my computer processing stock photographs in Photoshop I go into a “zone,” and don’t want to stop and do anything else (especially paying bills!) until I’m done.

I am tired of the pace of multitasking. It feels good to do one thing at a time and know it's being done well. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person, I propose the concept of monotasking. We should all find the time to try it - but not while doing anything else.

About the Author
Susan Linnet Cox is the author of “Photo Styling, How to Build Your Career and Succeed” a comprehensive career manual for photo stylists, published by Allworth Press, She also teaches career workshops through her site

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, provided the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Student Success, Cindy Epstein

Cindy Epstein, of Fallbrook, CA, signed up for the San Diego Food Styling & Photography Workshop in February 2008 to help her determine if she wanted to move forward with her food styling career. Before moving to southern California she had a catering business in Philadelphia. After selling her catering company, she apprenticed with a stylist in Philly, but her career plans got postponed after moving to California. Within a few weeks of completing the workshop, she found herself in the studio. She was testing with another student, Carl Kravats, a photographer who lived nearby and styling a new cookbook with photographer Greg Bertolini!Says Cindy, “I walked into the weekend with little confidence in my styling skills and with the hope that it would help me make a career decision about my next steps. The message was loud and clear. Go for it!! I walked away with a real sense of self-confidence.”

Here’s how Cindy describes her next project: “I've got a fabulous shoot with an ad agency on Monday. As one might expect, it wasn't finalized until Thursday afternoon at 4:45 and the agency was closed on Friday (4th of July holiday weekend). Ahhhhh! I've been shopping, prepping, and experimenting with various techniques for three days. They want to do 11 shots in one day - including ice cream - and there's no kitchen, no sink, no range, and no refrigeration. It's going to be a very busy day!” With Cindy’s skills and positive attitude, I’m sure she will have a successful day – and love every minute of it!Afternote: “I finished prepping Sunday night at 10 pm, was up at 4 am and on the road before 5 getting ice, dry ice, and making a trip to the bakery for fresh pastries. (They didn't tell me there was no elevator in the building!) We plowed through the day without a break. I got home at 8:15 Monday night, and as I fell into a chair, exhausted, I realized I hadn't sat down all day except for when I was driving to and from the job. But Susan was right, I had a blast! I can't think of anything more fun than collaborating with a group of creative people. When the group energy starts flowing, the process of creating the image is very exciting!” And the client sent a note after shoot thanking Cindy for the wonderful job she did! Visit Cindy's Website: www.cindyepstein.comCindy is now enthusiastically helping Greb Bertolini, Lisa Golden Schroeder, and me with promotions for the upcoming Food Photography and Styling Workshop in San Diego, September 2009.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Little Yoga Studio Shoot

One of the fun things about being a freelancer is the option of trading services with other independent people. I view this is an opportunity to help and network with others, in addition to being a good way to spend less cash.

Years ago I used to design T-shirts for my exercise program in Florida, Tuff Stuff. I managed to attend for months at a time just for designing a cool T-shirt for the instructors to wear. So when I was doing yoga this winter in my neighborhood yoga studio, The Little Yoga Studio, I got an idea. Maybe Maria Camacho, the owner would like to have great photographs of the products she sells. And we could trade.

Maria sells her own line of T-shirts and other great brands of yoga wear; also books, candles, and other yoga-related products. And she liked the idea. I enlisted Cedric Chang, my friend and former student, to help – he always likes to gain experience in the styling and photography world. One afternoon when there were no classes we met at the studio (actually the café down the street to get an injection of caffeine) and he played the photographer role while we both experimented with styling options and backgrounds. We had only three hours before the next class session so we had to use our time efficiently.

Here are some of the images we took that day, which are already up on Maria’s site, and I will be able to attend classes as often as I want this summer!

One bonus for all of the San Diego photo community: while shooting there I realized what a great location the yoga studio is. I have art-directed and styled athletic wear on location before and it’s always a challenge to find a good gym or studio setting. There are no mirrors which make shooting difficult (too many reflection problems, both lighting and the crew) and the bamboo-style flooring and wood walls make a great warm environment. While the studio is not large, I know this would be a great photo location. And now the San Diego Film Commission has The Little Yoga Studio on file.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When is She Going to Write About Styling?

I know, this blog is about the profession of styling, not about me. Well, partly about me. But I do believe that you can’t separate culture, trends, and fashion from styling! Every experience and observation that we make in our lives affects the aesthetics we contribute to a photo shoot.

The current economy allows us a little more time to reflect and look around too. Many are using this “down” time to improve their skills and portfolios, as evidenced by the number of online students from around the world that we have at Photo Styling Workshops. Some are frustrated creatives investigating a new career in a creative field such as food styling, others are already in the field but feeling the need to grow. And if you are reading this blog you may be someone who wants to connect and communicate about our similar goals.

I hope to hear from other stylists about these thoughts and print contributions about the career from viewpoint beyond my own. And life’s anecdotes are always fun in the meantime.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Moon Landing

On this 40th anniversary of the U.S. moon landing, I am reminded of where I was that day. I was in Pisa, thumbing around on my college Europe trip. On July 20th, 1969, I was with two friends I had met in a youth hotel in London, one a black guy from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the other, Manuel, a Portuguese guy from Angola. We had hit the road together and would travel for several days into Austria. On July 20th, we went into a gelati, an ice cream, news and espresso shop in Pisa and happened to see the American moon landing, live. A little later to celebrate, we took a pencil and wrote our names, a rebellion of graffiti, on the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The remainder of that summer was a flurry of news events coming from the U.S. There was the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching fire, the Sharon Tate murder, and Woodstock. What times!


What Were the 90s About?

In a recent discussion with some young friends/neighbors the subject of the 1990s came up. We realized there was little we could think of to define the decade. Sure, we know the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The decade of the 80s, especially the music, seems to be clearer to the people who were growing up then – I guess I ignored culture those years while I was bringing up my daughter. Though I do recall tight jeans, oversized T-shirts, and gravity-defying bangs. Seems some people were making a lot of money, while others of us were struggling.

But the 90s? What happened then? The era was only 9 to 19 years ago; maybe it’s too recent to have the right perspective. Here are some of the recollections of the 90s that were shared the other night:
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and 90210
Shoulder pads
Baby boomers trying to go straight
Getting back to normalcy
The first Iraq war

The last item, transition, seems to sum up the decade better than anything else. But that brings us back to the original question: What were the 90s all about?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Swine Flu aka Whine Flu

I never believed in the flu because I did not “get” the flu. I saw it as being a victim of your own weakness. Really, I was that intolerant. I didn’t get flu shots because I didn’t get the flu. Why would I want to do that? There is so much more in life than the flu. I hadn’t been sick more than two days for many years.

Until the day after I returned form my trip to Boston and upstate New York this summer. I had a sore throat. I felt like lying down! In two days it didn’t go away. How odd. After four days I went to a doctor; he said "it’s just a virus" but I knew that wasn’t possible. No diagnosis, disappointing, I just wasn’t right. My niece Janice (yes, the catalog whore) who is a physician, diagnosed me over the phone with the Swine Flu, H1N1. She had had it herself and the symptoms matched, exactly. Sore throat, coughing, weariness that just won’t go away, even the urge to whine about it. It was all reassuring but it still wouldn’t stop. What happened to my strong will and desire to triumph over illness with work?!

When I went back to the office and got an inconclusive (because it was too late) test I made a solemn promise to my nurse-practitioner that I would from now on, get a flu shot. I recommend we all do. This has slowed me down and worse, and I'm now in the fourth week! You don’t want to deal with it. Learn more from the NIH Website.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wearing History

This is the new design of my friend Lauren, who writes the blog Wearing History. Lauren (aka Mrs. Lauren Lee Henline Maringola) sells vintage patterns and fashions made from them in her etsy store. I just love this photograph of her and I don’t think she could have styled herself any better! The hair, the makeup, bottle of Coke, and the classic car, not to mention the cute sailor suit could not be more authentic for the era she loves.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The T-Shirt Laydown

Last week my student/blog consultant, Erika Viereck, and I had a photo shoot to create the icon for this blog. Here are some cool shots Erika took of the process. Before-and-after shots are always fascinating - and too often we forget to take them. Stay tuned for our new masthead - you'll see this shirt again!
Before. Complete with water drip from the steamer.

Me, Susan, cutting some batting to size to add loft under the T-shirt.

Once the batting is under the shirt, I placed rolls of tissue paper inside to give the shirt those vertical ripples.

Adding a second roll of tissue. These can be finessed later. The tissue is maleable.

Some fiber fill inside the shoulders helps to soften the shoulders and neckline.

Added the scissors, clothespins, and oversized safety pins as stylist props. Getting close but still a lot more tweaking to go.

Our final shot. We liked the extra rippling since it's going to be such a small image.

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Friday, July 10, 2009


Watching the 1964 Beatles movie, “A Hard Days Night” it strikes us that it is a transition from the Beat era to the next phase of culture. Director Richard Lester, famous for the 1959 short film, “The Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film” was in an unusual position of setting new standards in an era caught between the Beats of the 50s and the British Invasion. Collaborating with The Beatles, to create a new aesthetic style, Lester directed a film full of absurd wit and charming innocence. Lester later received an award from MTV and was recognized as the father of the music video.

Watch the trailer for “A Hard Days Night” which has recently been re-released. I love those guys!

Photo of Richard Lester,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Goals for the Summer

This is the "visualization board" I made at the beginning of the summer with some of my Opera Costume Shop friends. We got together and expressed all the creative projects we have in mind for the next few months. You can see my appreciation for the beauty of draped fabric and styled fashions is prominent. There's a little stack of books (behind the hand) in the upper left corner symbolizing my plans for writing the OFF-FIGURE styling book this summer. And the silver Havaiana flip-flops on the left side have already become mine!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shooting the Avatar

I will be styling and shooting the icon/avatar for this blog on Tuesday with my student/friend/blog consultant Erika Viereck aka Black Heart Bunny (I love saying that!). It will be an "invisible stylist" in the Styling T-shirt with some styling supplies attached.

Once we have the laydown shot, Erika is going to work on creating a masthead for this blog. Will add behind-the-scenes shots along with the masthead avatar. Can’t wait!

Fashion Styling Tool Kit

What a stylist needs to bring to a job. All the tools in a photo stylist's toolkit for an everyday photo shoot, presented by Susan Linnet Cox, author of Photo Styling. This video is now on YouTube!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My New Blog

This is going to be my life now and I am excited. Communicating with the written word is something I love and finding a community of photo stylists (along with people who want to know about the career) is going to be great. Writing the book (“Photo Styling”) and developing have been very exciting and this is a further chance to talk to the rest of the styling world!