Striking Pose

In a photocomposition, nothing stands alone… not a chair, not a rug, not even a model. Each is a part of a larger whole and the interconnection must be taken into account.  If one object is moved, it affects the unity and balance of the entire design. During this photo shoot, the model had difficultly striking the right pose. Her posture affected the harmony of the overall image. I gave her direction on how to hold her body that was inspired by an Avedon photograph. It is my job to create the illusion that everything has fallen into place effortlessly.
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Photo: Peter Murdock        
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin 


For inspiration as a prop stylist, I dig into everything I see around me… what made my heart beat faster while viewing an exhibition, what lingered in my mind from a bike ride along the Hudson, or just noticing the relationship between geometry and nature. Here, my inspiration for composing this sliced zucchini came from seeing a Richard Serra sculpture at the Dia Art Foundation.
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Photo: Lisa Shin
Stylist / Art Director: Philip Shubin

La Grande Odalisque

Picasso said: “Good artists copy, but great artists steal.”

I think art can give birth to new art. Appropriation can revitalize an old idea for a new generation by changing the context. Here, Ingres’ oil painting inspired me to create a composition, photographed for People Magazine.

Photo: Theo Westenberger
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin
Painting: Ingres, La Grande Odalisque

Principles of Design

As a prop stylist, I often create conceptual still life compositions: didactic images that present an idea that is more important than the finished work of art. This photograph was used to illustrate a story about the benefits of fish oil. I employed the use of multiple, small items to create repetition which unifies the image. 

Photo: Lisa Shin
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

A Question of Detail

As a prop stylist, I am passionate about paying attention to the smallest of details. The arrangement and rearrangement of the pieces in this composition became a meditation that I got lost in. When the balance, proportion, and symmetry were just right the complex design gave way to the feeling of effortless simplicity. The image suddenly had the appearance of falling together naturally.
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Photo: Ted Morrison  
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Driving to Distraction

I love the human element that is left behind when a person has touched an object. Like the red paper tags that my dry cleaner staples to my starched shirts. On this project, I became obsessed with adding the little warning stickers that the pharmacist would have carefully placed on the pill bottles. I also wanted evidence that the customer had handled the bottles. So, I peeled away the stickers just slightly and soiled the edges. 

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Client: Prevention Magazine
Photographer: Levi Brown   
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Do Different Daily

No two jobs are ever the same in my line of work. On this project, I learned to make a snow globe from a hobby kit. I figured out a trick to keep the snow suspended, making it easier to photograph. And I had the gold lettering laser cut to match the Reader’s Digest logo. The individual letters were held in place with horizontal bars that were latter removed in Photoshop. The very small eye-hooks create the sense of it being an xmas ornament. But best of all, I visited a model train super-store in the farthest reaches of NYC. There I found the very little people surrounding the snow globe. For every one figure that you see, there were 12 other options on set.

Photo: Levi Brown
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Reality is an illusion: Albert Einstein

Working with water on a photo shoot is always exciting for me. I splash the water with child-like wonder, but all of the seriousness of a scientist. 

Here, we had a lot to accomplish in one day. In order to save time on-set, I decided to use a plastic splash, hand made and molded to fit the back of the bottle. The stream of water is real, I used a super-soaker water gun to create it. But the splash back is mostly acrylic, and enhanced with bits of water. Everyone had a good time that day.

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Photo: Jonathan Kantor
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Selected for the American Photography, 28th Annual Book.

Only 324 images are chosen out of a highly competitive pool of 8,100 photo submissions. This image that I created, was awarded the honor of being published in the American Photography, 28th Annual Book. 

“Only 324 images from books, magazines, promotional and personal portfolios are chosen for the book out of a highly competitive pool of 8,100 photo submissions from 2,100 photographers.”

Photographer: Levi Brown
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

State of the Heart Medication

As I was constructing this sculpture to illustrate the article, “State of the Heart Medication”, I was reminded of a modernist, tribal mask. When we positioned it on set, we had to search for just the right camera angle to capture the sense of an anatomical heart. Kudos to the photographer, Dan Saelinger. The lighting is gorgeous.

Individual aspirin tablets had to be sanded down to fit into the nooks and crannies between the ventricles of this twenty-three inch, anatomical heart. It took several attempts to assemble just the right pattern. I opted to use the blank surface of the tablets and not the embossed side, which would have been visually distracting. With the hot glue gun fired up, a lot of patience and resistance to any distraction…. six hours latter, the job was complete.

Personally… I was thrilled with the outcome. The image was selected for the American Photography 28 book, which was a huge honor for the client: Prevention Magazine.


Things Organized Neatly: Organizing like objects in parallel or at 90 degree angles is known as “knolling” and has been made popular by Tom Sachs, the American sculptor.

How to knoll:
1 Scan your environment for materials that are not necessary.
2 Put away all unessential items. If you aren’t sure, leave it out.
3 Group all like objects.
4 Align or square all objects to the surface they rest on.


Photo: Victor Prado
Client: Details
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Things Organized Neatly

In creating this narrative, I pulled merchandise from my clients inventory that might be found in a guys rucksack. To construct unity, I chose to organize the products neatly. The process of “organizing things neatly” is also called “knolling” and was originated by Tom Sachs, the American sculptor. Knolling is present in Sachs’s oeuvre in pieces like Hardcore, a cabinet filled with objects neatly arranged at right anglesThe term “knolling” is derived from Knoll furniture, which he has an obsession for. Organizing things neatly has become a worldwide obsession in creating compositions for still-life photography. 

Photo: Andre Wagner
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

Firmly Planted

In composing this image, I utilized the design principles of Things Organized Neatly. My favorite aspect of this layout is the dirt on the gardening gloves, fork and spade. It adds a human element to the composition.

Client: Stetson
Photographer: Lucas Visser
Prop and Fashion Stylist: Philip Shubin

Creative Director

Often, I conceive the idea of how to showcase my client’s merchandise. In creating the image that the photographer shoots, I am working as creative director, art director, and stylist. 

Photographer: Lucas Visser   
Creative + Art Director / Stylist: Philip Shubin

Mark Bittman

Reader’s digest approached me to work with Mark Bittman, my foodie hero. On this project, my responsibility was to make sure he had everything needed to create his “Quick Chicken Parmesan” recipe for this video interview.

Mark Bittman's Ingredients

This conceptual composition illustrates the items needed for a recipe by gastronomist Mark Bittman. Time is a critical element for his “Quick Chicken Parmesan,” so I created a topsy-turvy tower of food balanced delicately on a kitchen timer. My secret ingredients to make this composition work were hidden scaffolding for the food and an off-camera brace to suspend the seemingly free-floating bottle of olive oil.

Photo: Travis Rathbone
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin

The Wine Everyone Loves to Lothe

As a prop stylist, I wear many hats. I often work as a food stylist, handling raw ingredients to compose an image for a photographer to shoot. For this project, I decanted the Chardonnay, choosing the long, slender stemware for its modern and sophisticated personality. It was important to create an elegant showcase for the Chardonnay, without detracting attention from it.

Chilled beverages would ordinarily cause condensation on the outside of a glass. This could be accomplished naturally if it were a warm, humid day, using cold wine. But we were shooting on a cold, dry day in the middle of winter. Mixing several ingredients together to create a fluid that would adhere to the glass, I created the illusion of condensation. It was critical to only create sweat on the part of the glass that contained wine.

The rustic wood surface that I procured creates a rough contrast to the modern glassware. The photographer’s soft backlighting highlights the grain and cut marks of the maple wood. 

   Photo: Victor Prado  Prop and Food Stylist: Philip Shubin    


Photo: Victor Prado
Prop and Food Stylist: Philip Shubin 


EAT Chololate

On this project, my client asked me to fabricate a fake bar of chocolate with the word “EAT” embossed in it. The resin model priced out at $4,000. It was not in the budget. Instead, I suggested that we shoot the back of a chocolate bar and use Photoshop to insert the letters “E”, “A” and “T”. These letters were picked up from another chocolate bar with text on it.

In the end my client was very happy with the image, we came in on time and under budget . The bite marks are mine. Chocolate is my favorite food group.

Photographer: Erika LaPresto
Prop Stylist: Philip Shubin