Feeling that pull, that quiet whisper in your soul urging you towards the new and the unknown? If you find yourself lost in daydreams, eyes fixed on the horizon, imagining the vast expanse of what’s yet to come, darling, magic awaits you. In today’s episode, we’ve got the ever-vibrant, incomparable prop stylist Gerri Williams. We unravel how to build genuine connections and ignite that inner spark and navigate the intricate dance of flourishing in a creative universe.
Gerri doesn’t just talk the talk; she’s walked the winding path, overcoming challenges, embracing growth, building genuine connections, and letting her passion light the way. From the aesthetics of crafting the perfect cookbook spread to the nuances of balancing the artist’s flair with the project’s essence, she gives us a masterclass in keeping it real and artistic. Ever wondered about the magic behind those stunning shots? Gerri spills the beans, discussing her cherished moments on set, the joy of creating, and the thrill of collaborating with souls who resonate with your vision.
But that’s not all. In a heart-to-heart, Gerri reaches out to the budding stylists tuning in, emphasizing the beauty of diversity and lending her voice to uplift those of color, striving to make their mark in an industry ripe for change.
So, dear listener, if you’re yearning to pivot, to sprinkle a bit of zest into your professional canvas, or simply craving a dose of inspiration to reignite that creative spark, this episode is your sanctuary. Settle down with your favorite brew, maybe light a scented candle, and let’s journey together into the vibrant world of Gerri Williams. Prepare to be enamored!
My name is Gerri Williams. I’m a New York City-based prop stylist who has been a part of the photo advertising and magazine industry for 25+ years.
I enjoyed styling before I even knew one could be a stylist. I distinctly remember being 12 years old and feeling dissatisfied with how my room looked, so without my parents’ permission, I redecorated my entire room. – and that was the beginning of my journey as a stylist.
Being a prop stylist is an incredibly exciting and creatively stimulating career. Moreover, I love the process of being given a concept for a photo shoot and then brainstorming all of the ways that I can add something fresh and interesting to the project.
Mica: [00:00:00] Welcome to the 32nd episode of The Savory Shot. I'm your host, with the most, Mica, y'all! I still can't believe that we've recorded 32 episodes so far. Oh my gosh. I know I say it every show, but man, this little podcast, it holds a big chunk of my heart.
So for the ones who've been here since episode one, thank you for coming back. Gracias. Danke Shein, all the thank yous in every language, and for the ones who are joining us for the first time, welcome to the show! We besties now! You fam now! So come find me on Instagram and introduce yourself, because I want to know you.
I want to know what love is! Okay, ignore all of that. Except for the part where I said we're besties, because we are. We're family. [00:01:00] We are family. Okay, I can't quit. Oh my gosh. Okay, this is a serious podcast. I am a serious host.
I got stuff and things to do, so... Okay, who am I kidding? This is a party. I have some espresso in me. I got some coffee in me. I got some things to say. But first things first... Did you listen to that episode with Steve Hansen? How freaking amazing was that? Y'all, CGI is the future. I'm like obsessed with Mid Journey.
I'm obsessed with ChatGBT, like all of those things. I'm just obsessed with it. And so having that conversation with Steve was the shiznit. I'm excited. And if you are, then let's be excited together. And if you're not, that's okay, too. It's okay to be worried. Let's talk about it. Let's, uh, work it out. But I want to give a shout out to Steve.
Thank you for being on the show. Thank you for showering us with all of your [00:02:00] knowledge and your CGI and all the things and stuff. Thank you so much for being on the show. And if you ever want to come back, please come back. I enjoyed our conversation. So thank you, Steve, so much for being on the show.
But y'all, let's talk about today's guest. Oh, y'all. My heart, my cup, they both runneth over. Let me tell you something about today's guest. Today's guest is the most sweetest, kindest, warmest soul I ever met. I won't keep y'all hangin for long. Meet Gerri Williams. Gerri Williams is a prop stylist, and she's based in New York.
Y'all, you have seen her work everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. From magazines, to cookbooks, to commercial projects. Y'all, Gerri has done it all.
Let me just say this. [00:03:00] I, and I know I say this every conversation, but I loved, loved, loved, loved everything about this conversation. Have you ever met someone that you instantly connected with? I'm not talking about like, oh, you seem like cool people. Let's go on an awkward coffee meet in two weeks.
I'm talking about connecting on a deep soul level. Like you've known each other forever for years. Even though you've only known each other for like five minutes, but you talk to each other, like you've known one another for 25 years. There's just that, that safe, warm feeling, like this is someone that you are going to know for a very long time and it feels really exciting.
That's what this conversation felt like. It's just, like I said, my heart, [00:04:00] my cup, they both runneth over.
Y'all, we talked about everything. We talked about Gerri's beginnings, her risky move to New York for Oklahoma, and y'all, it is a story! And how she fosters her relationships. Okay, I won't give away the whole show. Not yet. But I will say this. Get ready. This is one hell of a show, and I, I won't, I won't keep you hanging any longer.
So, grab some coffee, and while you're doing that, let's start the show.
Mica: Thank you so much for being on the show. I'm very excited to have you here. It's just such an honor that you're gonna, you're gonna share your story and your journey with us. So thank you for being on the show.
Gerri: Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to speak with you, Mica. Very excited.
Mica: I want to get right into this because I've got a whole meat a potato of questions to ask you. I'm introduced to you by the wonderful and amazing Robin Zachary. Hey, shout out to Robin.
Gerri: Hi, Robin.
Mica: Yes, and she recommended that I talk to you.
So here we are, here I am talking to you. When I was doing my research and learning more about you, I found an article that [00:06:00] said, five black prop stylists that you should know. Your name was on that list, and you told the story about your memory of 12 year old you rearranging your room, without your parents permission. And I was just like, oh my gosh, I have to talk to you. I have to talk to you. This is so cool. So, you know, tell me about that, that moment, that day. What do you remember from that?
Gerri: I remember just kind of being in my room and I was thinking something is, doesn't feel right to me. Most homes back then, back way back in the day had carpeting, right? And I'm thinking there must be something under this carpet that I need to see. It was just, I don't know why it was just bugging me.
So I moved a couple of things around and I actually pulled up the carpeting and I saw these beautiful wood floors and it just, it just kind of [00:07:00] sparked something in me. This was like probably early in the morning, and I'm pretty sure some of my other siblings were home. I can't remember, but it was almost like a project for me.
And I just started ripping up the carpet and ripping it up and ripping it up. Now, the furniture in my room was kind of heavy because we had these beautiful like, Haywood Wakefield, like a chest of drawers and a desk. And I was struggling, but somehow, I don't know how. I got all of that furniture moved and I got the carpet up.
And then my mom comes home and my mom was like, Oh my God, don't even get me started. She said, Gerri, and she had this sweet little voice and she said, what have you done here? I said, Mom, I said, I just, I didn't like the carpet in my room anymore. And I just felt like there was something nice under this carpeting.
And she looked at the floor and she said, Oh my God. You're right. These floors are [00:08:00] beautiful. And that was the beginning of us having all the carpeting pulled up in most of the house and just having beautiful wood flooring just exposed. And it was absolutely lovely.
Mica: I love that. It's like when you discover gold, you're out in the field and, and you rub away that dirt and then you find this beautiful little jewel and you're like, wow.
Gerri: A treasure.
Mica: Yes. Yes. So you learn that about yourself. How do you bring that into your work today as a stylist?
Gerri: I'm always looking for something that's different or new. I got really interested in Japanese ceramics about eight years ago, right? And now I'm like, every time I see something that I feel like, Oh, this could be a piece that was made in Japan. I do my research and I have a few places that I actually buy [00:09:00] ceramics from that are based in Japan.
I'm always trying to find a new thing. Like I love things that I'm kind of used to, but I'm always on the search for new things. Does that make sense?
Mica: That makes perfect sense. It shows very much, how young 12 year old you looked around and you're like, I know that there's got to be something more to this space. It's like you find potential in every prop and it feels a certain way to you.
Gerri: Exactly. It's kind of weird because my mom had a resale business where she would go out and buy stuff, right? And then she would resell it. Her and my aunt had a small resale business. They would have garage sales, but also my dad was a chef. So I grew up loving food and it's somehow those two things for me have become my career, what I do, I work with food and I work with props.
When my mom was having those sales in her garage sales, we would all pitch in and help. We'd [00:10:00] hang out signs, announcing the garage sale that's going to happen this weekend, you know, I would go out with her and we would find stuff.
It's the same thing that I'm doing today. It's so crazy.
Mica: Do you attend a garage sale still in New York?
Gerri: It's not actually garage sales that I go to, but it's like, you know, there are like thrift stores and I love the Salvation Army. There's a company here called Housing Works. It's kind of like the Salvation Army, but it's a little bit different. And I find the most incredible things at these places.
Trust me, I have found some really, really... beautiful, expensive things at thrift stores that I actually use for my photo shoots.
Mica: Oh, thrift stores are where it's at. There's a, I don't know if it's an antique shop, but it's my, my husband calls it like a hoarder's closet, but it is not a hoarder's closet lesson. It's called Out Of The Past and it's owned by [00:11:00] this woman and her son. They run it together. It's her business, but he he helps her run it.
When you walk in, it is overwhelmingly packed with stuff. And she knows where everything is.
It's a wonderful, wonderful place. I tell every photographer that I know, I'm like, please go check this place out. If you can get over the dirt and stuff everywhere and see for what it is, you will find the most beautiful things there.
Gerri: Oh my God. Okay. See, now you have me. I'm like kind of going crazy now. Oh my God. Out Of The Past.
Mica: If you ever come to Austin to visit, that, that'll be one spot.
Gerri: Yes, absolutely. We'll have to have a little day there.
Mica: Yeah, this isn't one of those places where you go for like an hour or two. Like, you dedicate a day
Gerri: A whole day. Yes.
Mica: She wants you to make noise. She'll walk around and she'll be like, it's too quiet in here. Like, y'all need to get into some stuff. And I look over at her and I'm like, you see me, like I'm surrounded on the floor with things.
I'm, I'm doing my job.[00:12:00]
Gerri: Oh my God. That sounds amazing. I know there, there's a place here in Brooklyn. It's called Mother of Junk.
And I cannot tell you how many beautiful things I've found at this place, but it's like, it's like a, it's like a treasure hunt. You have to really, really look and dig and go through the ten thousand forks, knives, and spoons in this big barrel of stuff. But if you have the time and the patience, you can find some beautiful things.
Mica: If you go to a store that's widely known Walmart or something, I don't know where people go, Crate and Barrel, you're picking a prop that you can find abundantly everywhere, but there's just something special about finding that one plate that doesn't really exist in a lot of other worlds.
It's just, it's a very, very fun feeling.
Gerri: It really is. It really is.
Mica: We talked a little bit about your mom and your [00:13:00] family. You are From Oklahoma City and you've been in New York now for, for 20 years.
Gerri: Well, actually, it may be a little longer than that. I moved here in 1987.
Mica: Of 1987. So I, I'm not, I I still count with my fingers, so.
Gerri: I don't even, yeah, don't even ask me to count.
Mica: I'm, I'm
Mica: I I got my calculator, so . Okay, so that's 36 years. Wow. 36 years.
Gerri: So I consider myself a New Yorker now, but I'll always be like a, a Sooner from Oklahoma.
Mica: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Do you know Penny De Los Santos? She. Um,
Gerri: Of course I know Penny.
Mica: Okay, so y'all, y'all are BFFs.
Gerri: She's so sweet. Back in the day, we did a few shoots together. I love Penny. She's amazing.
Mica: I worship the ground she walks on.
Gerri: Yeah, she's, she's a real one.[00:14:00]
Mica: I interviewed her for the show and one comment that she made is that, yes, she's from Texas and she'll always have her heart in Texas, but she's lived in New York for so long that at this point she's more of a New Yorker than a Texan. Like your roots are are here for sure, and it's a place in your heart, but New York is just fun, wonderful, amazing city to, to live and thrive in.
Gerri: Oh, it's so exciting. The possibilities are endless. There's something to do on every street. You go to Park Slope or you go to Williamsburg or any of these small little places, little cities or whatever you want to call them, it's like, there's always something to do.
That's the thing. Sometimes it could be a little bit overwhelming. But then, you don't get bored so much. There's always something to do.
Mica: So do you remember the moment you decided to move to New York? Was it a definitive [00:15:00] moment or was it organic?
Gerri: I was talking to my daughter the other day, and I remember back in, I'm going to say 1972. And please forgive me if I'm going down memory lane, but this is how this is, it has something to do with where I am now. In 1972, my second oldest sister, Irelene, she came to New York to visit with our church. And when she came back, she was telling me all these fascinating things that she saw and the things that were kind of a little scary and the people on the street. There were like drug addicts and. And I was thinking, Oh, this sounds really cool. Don't ask me why. And I'm telling you, I'm telling you, I was like, Mica, I was, I was what, maybe 10, but it was something about her description of New York City that I just fell in love with this place.[00:16:00] I would always watch the, um, movies from like the thirties and stuff. And that movie 42nd Street was always one of my favorite movies.
Mica: Oh my gosh, 42nd Street!
Gerri: Yes. Something in my brain just said to me, one day you're going to move to New York City and you have to make that happen. So it was always kind of in the works, but I got a, an opportunity to move here with one of my friends in Oklahoma. She was moving here to work for this person who owned a hotel.
It was called the Carter Hotel in Times Square of all places. 42nd Street.
Gerri: She said, Gerri, we've been talking about moving to New York City and I think I have a way for us to do that. Well, fast forward, it happened. I moved the day that I left, my parents were standing outside and Mica, if I even think about it now, it makes [00:17:00] me like emotional.
My mom was looking at me and it was, it was this look of like, Oh my God, my baby is actually leaving. She's going to this big bad city as she would kind of call it. And that was 1987 and I've been here, I, of course I go, I would go back to Oklahoma, but it's, this is where I ended up and this is where I wanted to be.
Mica: Are you the youngest in your family?
Gerri: Oh no, I, I am, I'm number 10 of 12.
My mom had, yes, 12 children. 8 of us survived, 4 passed. But yeah, huge family. So I'm, um, yeah, I'm number 10. 10 of 12.
Mica: My mom gets very emotional every time I leave. I'm the youngest. I'm her baby. I have three older brothers and I'm the youngest.
But I'm always the one, leaving, going. I'm out of state. I like to travel. And it's a really scary thing for her because she just wants to be there to protect.[00:18:00]
So I can imagine your mom just being like, Oh my god, I want her to like, go to this big city and, and make these big dreams come true. But I'm really scared about I won't be there to protect her.
Gerri: I know it was hard for her, but she let me shine. She let me go. And she said, Gerri, you know, if you ever get in trouble or you need us for anything. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call. My dad, he didn't say much because my dad was kind of like a tough guy, but I could see in his eyes, Mica, oh my God.
The sadness in his eyes and I thought to myself when I got to my hotel that night when we landed and we were settled in our hotel, I must have cried myself to sleep. I know I did.
I cried myself to sleep. And then the next morning I got up and it's like, okay. It's time to, it's time to go to work, it's time for me to build my, my life here in New York City.
Mica: I identify with that [00:19:00] so much. I went to college in San Angelo, Texas, which is not as far as New York, but it definitely wasn't Austin. And my mom cried the entire drive.
All the way until we got me in my dorm, gave everybody hugs. Continued bawling her eyes out, and then as soon as everybody left, I remember sitting on my bed and just, blalalalala,
Gerri: You lost, you lost it.
Mica: I was like everything went out my wall, you know, fingers crossed.
Gerri: So the same thing happened to you,
Mica: Same thing happened to me. It's one of those things where it's like you think about it, and think about it, and think about it, and it's very exciting. And then once it's actually happened, you're like.
Gerri: And you second guess yourself. Like, did I do the right thing here? You know, I really, I really questioned, was that the right move for myself? And I thought, you know what? I did it. I'm going to try it out. And like my mom said, you can always come home. She would say that every time I talked to her, you can always come home.
Mica: That's a comforting [00:20:00] thing to know is, is that there's a safe landing. I don't know if it was the same for you, but for me it was like, I am determined to blossom because I don't want to go home.
Gerri: Oh yeah. Oh my God. Oh, of course. It was an option, but that was not going to happen. Not for me. As long as you have that safety net, it actually, I think it kind of spurs you on to be more, willing and ready to make it work.
If you sometimes feel like you don't have that to fall back on, I don't know if that's a good thing. I could be wrong.
Mica: For some people, they thrive on not having a backup, not having a place to go. I'm not one of those people. I feel good if I know that there's a place, there's a safe space for me to go to, but it's always a last resort for me.
Gerri: Last, last resort for sure.
And it can be, and it can be really, really [00:21:00] scary. But you also prove to yourself that, you know what? I'm a tough girl. I can do this. It's hard, but I'm going to get through this.
Mica: When you go back to Oklahoma City to visit your family and friends, do you ever wonder what life would be like for you had you stayed in Oklahoma?
Gerri: No, cause I knew that wasn't an option.
Mica: I don't want to deal with no tornadoes. I ain't going back there.
Gerri: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no 110 degrees 120. I can't, you know, it's like I knew that I was going to make it. Whatever it took for me to do that. Whatever it took for me to stay here and make it. And thank you Lord, I'm still here.
Mica: I love that determination. It reminds me so much of my brother, Anthony, he's one of the most determined people. He recently bought the company that he worked for, for 25 years, and he worked his way up to the top. Yeah, until he bought it.
Gerri: Oh my God, congratulations Anthony!
Mica: Right? [00:22:00] He's, man, I admire him so much. He's just full of grit and full of determination. When I hear you say, moving back to Oklahoma City was not an option because I was going to make it here. I just, I love hearing that. I love hearing that, that determination. It's such an inspiring thing.
Gerri: I really had help along the way. People who loved me and supported me. And those people, I have to give credit for. My cousin actually lived here. She was a cousin by marriage and my mom used to babysit her children when we were little, right? Something happened at this hotel that kind of freaked both me and my friend out.
I called my mom. I said, Mom, we have to leave this hotel because there are things here that are nefarious. We don't like the situation that we're living in. And she said to me, she said, Gerri, she said, I'm going to call you back in an hour. And when she [00:23:00] said, just sit tight. She calls my cousin who lived on the Upper West Side.
One of the most beautiful places in New York City. She called me back and she said, Gerri, her name was Eva. I'll never forget her. She's the most beautiful, kind person. She said, Eva said to pack your bags and that she was going to come and get you guys in an hour from that hotel. And this was not just me, but my friend that I moved up here with.
And do you know, Mica, she took us in to her beautiful apartment for six months. Okay. And she said, you have to get a job. And I said, of course, I'm going to get a job. She said, I'm going to give you six months. She said, you don't have to pay rent. You don't have to pay for food. I'll buy your clothes. But when you leave in six months, I want you to have at least 5, 000 dollars saved up so you can get an apartment and you can go out on your own.
And I had [00:24:00] to do that because I didn't want to embarrass my mom. This was my mom's niece, her cousin, whatever. I think she was, she's our cousin. My mom said, Gerri, you have to do what Eva tells you to do. And that's the thing because it was not just me, it was my friend.
And we were treated like royalty at this place. But when that six months mark came up, we had to move and we had already had an apartment set up. So sometimes you need help to make those goals happen and my cousin even made that happen for me. Otherwise, I may have had to go home again. I'm not sure, only God knows, but I know she helped us to stay here in New York City and I'll never forget her for that. Ever.
Mica: That's amazing. And that's so kind. What a big heart to, to do that, to, I think. Pay that forward. We need more people like that in, in this world. I'm curious to find... How you [00:25:00] found yourself in the world of prop styling? I know it ties back to you rearranging your room. How did this form into a career for you?
Gerri: I had met a couple of friends. My friend Sonia and her sister Donna. Donna worked for YM Magazine, Young Miss. I don't know if you've ever heard of that. Probably not. I don't know because I don't think it's still in existence, but I was between jobs and she asked me, she said, Gerri, I need help.
I need you to come on to a photo shoot with me. I just need you to hang up the clothes and steam the clothes because she was a wardrobe stylist. So I went on set, but there was this person who was like arranging this living room set up. And I was like thinking, what is this person doing?
And I asked Donna, I said, what is that girl doing? Why is she arranging the furniture and making everything look so pretty? And Donna said, Well, she's a prop stylist. I [00:26:00] said, a what? What is a prop stylist? And she explained it. It was like a light bulb went off in my head, Mica.
I thought, this is what I'm supposed to do. This is the kind of job that I'm supposed to do and this is what I want to do. And that's how it all started. It was insane. So I reached out to this person. I don't remember her name, but Donna also connected me with a couple of photographers.
And the ball just started rolling. One job led to another job and one job led to another job. One person reached out to me to assist on set bringing in some plates and maybe bringing in some furniture for this photo shoot. And that's how it happened.
Mica: Where that light bulb goes off, it's gotta be like one of the most energetic moments ever. Cause it just feels like things just fall into place after that moment. Was it like that for you?
Gerri: Absolutely. It was almost like it was handed to me on a plate. It was hard [00:27:00] work, but it was the thing that I had always thought I wanted to do, but I didn't quite know what it was called. You know what I mean? Does that make sense?
Mica: That makes perfect sense. When I talked to Robin, she was describing that too. She's like, I didn't even know
Gerri: That was a thing.
Mica: That that was a career. That that was a thing. I had no idea that this is what styling was. There wasn't a name to it. And I'm like, yeah, but once you find that name and, and there's like a actual career, you're like, Oh,
Mica: Guess that's what I'm doing.
Gerri: I guess that's what I'm doing. Absolutely. And, and it's, it's a thing and it's a thing that I can do.
Mica: Do you remember the first job that you styled? By yourself on your own as the lead stylist.
Gerri: I do sort of. It was a [00:28:00] job for Home Depot.
And it was with this really amazing photographer. His name is Bruce Wolfe. He was just so kind and so patient with me. He walked me through things. It was intense. It was an intense photo shoot, but with his help and his guidance, I thought, you know what, this is, it's hard, but it's not as hard as I was making it to be.
Because I was so afraid. When you're not afraid to do something, it becomes easier.
So yeah, that was my first, and it turned out beautifully. It ran in a magazine, blah, blah, blah for advertising. That was the one that really set me off in the direction that, okay, this is, this is it. This is what I'm going to do for sure. Cause I can do it.
And I know how to do it and I've been helped by a person who knows how to do it.
Mica: Did you [00:29:00] see the the final shot in in an ad?
Gerri: I did.
Mica: What was that moment like? What do you remember about that moment?
Gerri: Bruce, I think he must have either emailed me or said something like, Oh, our, our ad is running. And I think it was Home Magazine. And he said, our ad is running in Home Magazine. I'm going to send you a copy. And he did. I thought to myself, I was literally almost in tears. I was thinking, I actually did this. I styled this photo shoot and it was an amazing moment. But then, you know what I started to do, Mica, I started to pick apart what I had done.
Those flowers look like they're dying. That towel should have been folded differently. I think that's how you learn and you grow when you can pick apart the things that you've done and you can recognize you should have done something differently. I think that's how you grow.
I still do that to this day. I think to myself, what could I have [00:30:00] improved upon in this story or in this photo? Was there something else I could have used? That doesn't happen a lot, but I do still see that. And I think that's how you continue to grow.
Mica: There's a food stylist. Her name is Kristina Wolter. She's... absolutely amazing and just the kindest person, that I've ever met and one thing that she advised me on. She said, every shoot that I work on, I ask myself at the end, what went well, what tool would have made this shoot gone easier? And what would I like to do in the next shoot?
It's really cool to be reflective on every project that you do to move forward.
Gerri: Absolutely. I try to do that on every job, and some things I'm like really, really, really happy with, but then there are those times where I said, you know what, I should have used that [00:31:00] pink platter with the whatever. And I think, okay, so the next time when I do a shot like that, I'm going to really, really think about what I want to use.
Cause sometimes when you're on set and you're feeling pressure to choose something, you sometimes make the wrong decision just to kind of get it done. I'm telling myself I'm gonna stop doing that. They're just gonna have to wait for me to figure out what I need and what they need and that's it. No more rushing.
Because it doesn't help in the end. You know what I mean?
Mica: Absolutely. When we're trying to get it as perfect in camera as possible, and it's like, trust me, it's going to save me time, later in post.
Mica: Let's take the time now.
Gerri: To do it right.
Mica: To do it. Right. Exactly. Exactly. I very briefly worked at a retirement center and they were training me to be a medicine technician.
Had no business giving people medicine. I don't know why they [00:32:00] chose me, but they chose me , but I thought, You have a high school diploma. Get in
Gerri: Oh my God.
Mica: Can you read that? Yeah, so, they're showing me all of these medicines, and I'm like, I am so not qualified to be here. The person who trained me, said, I'm going to teach you how to do this the right way. I'm going to show you how I do it. So mine way. And then I'm going to show you how not to do it.
It just goes to show that there's just so many different ways of reaching an end goal of something.
Gerri: Right. Absolutely.
Mica: How can you know that though, if you don't take a minute to take a look at something and evaluate it.
Gerri: And also, just try it. Sometimes you're going to fail. But not with giving someone medicine. We don't want to do that, but I'm just saying. We don't want to, we don't want to give [00:33:00] anyone the wrong medicine,
Mica: I'm serious. I have no, I have no idea why they thought I'd be a good a candidate for that.
Gerri: I'm so happy you chose photography for sure. Your work is beautiful. I, I must say that again. I know I said that to you earlier, but it's, it's, it's stunning. So congratulations. It is so beautiful.
Mica: Thank you so much, I, I'm very much like you, I, I like to pick my work apart as well, and I'm I'm probably my, my toughest critic. And so it really means a lot to me when people tell me, how much they enjoy my work. You mentioned earlier being, being drawn to objects and shapes and textures. What interests you the most about the objects, shapes, and textures?
Gerri: You know, that's a hard question for me to answer because there are so many things I see that are beautiful. Like ceramics, right? [00:34:00] I love ceramics. Anything that's like a beautiful glaze, anything that has an unusual form, but that could be like a rug, or that could be like a platter. I don't limit myself. I have a very vast experience appreciation of all things. When I'm styling a job, Mica, I bring so much stuff on set. Cause I can't decide. Does that, is that weird? I can't decide what I want to use.
Mica: Not at all. Not at all.
Gerri: I'm the type of person. I kind of make things up as I go.
I don't like sticking to a script. I want to be able to just like, freestyle, as they say. I bring stuff to set that the client didn't even know they want it or need it. So I don't know if that answers your question, but it could be anything. I am just a lover of beautiful things [00:35:00] and whatever that may be.
Mica: It just shows that you're open to receiving all kinds of props because they'll find a way, they'll find a way. There's always going to be a situation, a shoot where maybe it doesn't work for this shoot, but it definitely worked for something down the road.
Gerri: Right. I've probably purchased and sold at least three collections. Right. Sometimes I think about the stuff that I sold. I'm thinking, Oh my God, you idiot. Why would you do that? But, I have so I'm much stuff, Mica. You would not believe it because I'm constantly buying and I'm constantly trying to improve upon my collection and get things that are varied. Some things that are Middle Eastern, some things that are like Polish. It's like certain things, certain looks that I just want to have all of it just in case. There's a shoot that [00:36:00] I will most likely need those things for.
Mica: I feel like I need to, you know, put, put like a plaque on on my garage door that's titled just in case. My, my husband Aaron, he is like so over me collecting props. Yes.
Gerri: Oh my God, he needs to talk to my husband, Simon, because I'm pretty sure they'll have a lot in common. Oh my God. If I hear one more time, where are we going to put this? I would say, you know what? You really want to know?
Mica: My prop storage area was a mess. Aaron, finally put his foot down. He was like, Okay, you need to, like, organize this. So my friend Anna helped me organize my prop space and now it's like all neat and orderly.
And I'm like, look how much space I have for more props .
Gerri: Hahahahahaha Now you know that's not what he meant Mica.[00:37:00]
Mica: I actually just picked up this like really old desk. Um, it's from the 1800s. How crazy is that?
Mica: Yes. I gotta send you pictures.
Gerri: Please do.
Mica: So when I text my husband, I told him I'm on my way to get a desk.
And he's please, and I was like, we'll find a way we'll find a way.
Gerri: Yeah, we'll, we'll make it work. Yes.
Mica: So, when you agreed to be on the show, and I was doing my research on you, I was like, okay, I've talked to several food photographers when I asked, because I asked them, who should I interview?
Who should I, who should I interview? And they were like, you need to talk to Gerri. You need to talk to her.
And, I was looking around, and I could not, for the life of me, find a single photo of you. And I was like, who is this genius that I need to talk to?
Who is she? Who is [00:38:00] she? I was telling my husband, I was like, I feel like I'm looking for Batman. Like, who is this person?
Gerri: That's hilarious.
Mica: Who is she? I feel like I'm late to the party. But at the same time, I was like, wow, that's really cool that you have this wonderful career. We're told you need to have social media, you need to have a website, you need to do all of this, this, this, for people to know who you are.
And I'm like, here's Gerri. So what I want to know is, was it was this an intentional choice to keep your face off of the internet?
Gerri: Yeah, it's, it wasn't intentional. I've never been the type of person that wants to just be out there in the public domain. It's not my thing, you know? And sometimes having a bit of mystery makes people even more interested in you. You see my name, Gerri Williams, I could be anybody, right?
The way I look shouldn't [00:39:00] matter to like how I do my work, which sometimes it does. So for me, it's, it wasn't really intentional, but in some ways it, worked in my favor, if that makes sense.
Mica: Especially in today's world, we are encouraged to overshare. I've seen some stuff on Facebook where I'm like, you should not.
Gerri: That be doing that. Yeah. Yeah.
Mica: It's like, you don't have anything for yourself. Like, you just don't have something for you and only you. I think my generation is the last generation that knows what life was like before the internet and how much freedom there was in that.
Gerri: And I'm, I'm at an age, Mika, that I don't really care. I am who I am. It is what it is. I do my job. I love what I do, but I don't need everybody's approval. You know what I mean? I just want to do what I do and do it well. I'm not trying to [00:40:00] get followers or likes.
It's just, I do what I do because I love it.
Mica: You're here to do the work. And it just shows more than anything, how many relationships you have. Pretty much every photographer I talked to in New York, they mentioned your name.
Gerri: Oh my God, that is, that is so sweet. Oh my God. That makes, that's really sweet.
Mica: That is the power of networking, the power of relationships that you have with people. You mentioned earlier that, you've had a lot of help along the way. Is, do you think that that's, how you've been able to have a career?
Gerri: Out there.
Mica: Out there
Gerri: I, I think so because also a lot of the people that I work with, we tend to end up being friends. So it's kind of a personal relationship and a professional [00:41:00] relationship. For me, the two things go hand in hand because, most, I'm going to say 98 percent of the people that I work with, photographers and things, we're like friends.
I know these people. I've known them for years. They trust me. I trust them. You don't have to really think about what you're doing too much because you have that thing with each other. Like, you know what they need. They know what you need. And so you do the work together.
Mica: I talked with Rishon Hanners recently. She's a food stylist based out in, in Birmingham. And one thing that she mentioned when building out your team, it's like sometimes you work with people because they bring a certain energy, like a certain calmness. If you know what type of client this client is and they're, maybe they're persnickety and very picky and, and you as the photographer might be nervous and so you want to surround yourself with a team where you just [00:42:00] trust them and they trust you.
And it's such a good vibe and such a good energy. That stuff that happens, it doesn't happen instantly. It's, it's a very organic thing that just happens naturally.
Gerri: For sure. For sure. I worked very recently with a group of women that I hadn't worked with before. They're a lot younger than I am. But I must tell you, it's like, it was almost like we had been working together forever because we all had the same goal in mind. It's like to create beautiful photos, it was very collaborative.
So it was kind of easy to form that relationship with these, these wonderful women. It was a shoot for Tyson. It was for the Middle East client, or I think it was, you know, for the Middle East. But it was just like we had been working together forever.
Mica: Have there ever been times when you felt pressure to reveal more of yourself? And if so, how do you handle those situations?
Gerri: [00:43:00] To be very, very honest, Mica, I have not. It's just like, I'm the person that I am. If you take it or leave it. If someone is, is trying to like, go too deep into my personal life and thing, I'm, that's just not me.
I, I, I'm going to put a halt to that. It's like, you know what? Maybe this is not the thing for me to do. I can't.
Mica: We had like this winter storm and the ice weighed down all the trees around Austin and so we had a lot of power outages all over Austin. And my mom needed to charge all four of her phones.
Gerri: All four? Oh
Mica: four. All four. There was a Starbucks right next door to our apartment complex, but she didn't want to wait the 15 minutes for them to open their lobby. So she walked two and a half miles to a hospital [00:44:00] so she could charge her four phones in their lobby. And my sister in law, my brother, the whole family was searching all over South Austin for this woman.
Gerri: Oh my god, Mica. Don't tell me that. Are you kidding me?
Mica: Yeah. I kept calling her number over and over and over. And it Would just go straight to voicemail.
So my sister in law called her through Facebook Messenger and my mom told her, Hey, I'm at the hospital. Come get me. And we went and I
Gerri: Oh my god.
Mica: Get in this car, woman. Getting this. I was so mad at her.
And so on the way back to her apartment, I was like, Mom, we need to know where you're at at all times. And she was not in favor of that. She said, I'm a grown woman. I like my privacy. I like my independence. If I want to go somewhere. I just want to go. And sometimes I don't want people to know where I'm at and it's my business.
It's my [00:45:00] business where I am at. I mean, I get it. I get what she means by sometimes you just want to unplug and you got to have things for yourself. I'm really big into genealogy and I. I've researched my family for several years now, but one thing that disturbed me how much information I found on Facebook. Like, I found names, I found date of births, I found... Addresses, pictures of their children. Their houses like it just I it personally alarmed me. I've become very protective over what I share.
But the challenge is I do have to promote myself and my business and my podcast and everything like that, but I don't have to share everything.
Gerri: My daughter's been, I believe she's on my Instagram page, maybe, or in one of our stories. But even that makes me feel weird, you know, because that's my baby. It's a little weird for me.
But, you know, she's 24, so I know she wants to be [00:46:00] out there, but even with her, she's not going to overshare with people.
Mica: So let's take it to when you work with a food stylist on a project. How do you align your creative visions?
Gerri: It depends on the project, actually. If I'm doing a test with a food stylist, then we collaborate on, on like what foods we want to shoot and what's the look. Is it going to be, a Japanese kind of food shooter? Is it going to be something more American? It's always a collaboration for me, but when I'm working on a project that someone else is in control of,
like a client. Then it's kind of what the client wants. I try to bring in my vision and like talk to them about what I think they need or what I think we should use. And then the food stylist, I think sometimes we'll do the same, but it's [00:47:00] always about a collaboration and sometimes it's out of my control.
Mica: Do you work closer with the food stylist or with the photographer?
Gerri: I would say the photographer. I work with the people that I'm working with and we, I always try to include them in. Sometimes for me, when there's too much input, it kind of throws me off. So I'll say let's use this platter versus, like an oval platter versus a square platter.
Let's use a shallow bowl as opposed to a flat bowl or a flat plate. It's those kinds of tweaks I try to bring to the table. A photographer may have a different idea about what, how he wants or how she wants to plate a certain food. So I'm, I'm always willing to listen, but that's why I bring so many options on set.
Cause sometimes we just, you just don't know until you're on set.
Mica: Just go [00:48:00] with the flow and you come in with an idea with also the knowledge that this could go a different direction.
Gerri: Yeah, it may not work.
Mica: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gerri: So let's figure out something else, and that's what really bugs me on set is when, something is not working, but either the photographer or the food stylist, whatever they they're trying to make it work. And it's like, you know what? I, but I have so many other things we can choose from.
So let's, let's play a little bit. Let's not get stuck in one on one. Plate or one bowl or one glass. You know, let's play a little bit, but I've been in that situation where we spend an hour on trying to make something work and I that's a waste of time in my opinion. That's just my opinion.
Mica: My, my former professor said, and he's like, I will try to fix a problem three times. If it doesn't get fixed by the third try,
I move on.
Gerri: Then move [00:49:00] on.
Mica: Time is precious. We're on a schedule. We do not have the time. This is not working. So we need to find something else.
Gerri: Especially too, when you have so much to choose from, don't get stuck on one thing, please.
Mica: What do you do in moments where you see a prop and you just don't feel a connection to it. Like how do you know when it's time to let go of a prop?
Gerri: I can just feel it. I can feel it like this is not. It's not moving me. If something has to move me and I know that it's right or it's not right. And it doesn't happen a lot, but there are times when it's like, Oh, and even for me, I had a vision for something. Right. And I'm thinking this is going to look beautiful and it doesn't work.
So I figure out something else to use and that's the beauty of like being on set and you, you collaborate about things because I'm not always right. I can admit that, but some people [00:50:00] can't, you know what I mean?
Mica: I'm, I'm I'm one of those people.
Gerri: Are you really Mica? No, really?
Mica: Little bit bullheaded. When there's a will, there's a way.
Gerri: Okay, Mica, so when we work together,
Mica: Yeah, you're gonna have to pull me to the side and be like, well, let it go.
Gerri: No, I'm pretty sure I won't have to do that.
Mica: Very true. Very true. I mean, I, I gone more to like things that have nostalgic feelings, you know, like I love collecting birthday cards that people have gotten me over the years. I have, well,
several boxes of birthday cards that I've just collected over the years, and I, I don't know, someone takes the time to write a thoughtful message on a card, it just,
Gerri: Oh, that's so sweet.
Mica: Yeah, my love language is, is giving gifts and receiving gifts.
Gerri: I understand. No, I, I, I get it. Sometimes it's, is it about the [00:51:00] sentimental aspect of it or just
Mica: Very much. Very much. I mean, the handwriting. Especially when a friend has passed away and the picture is wonderful, the picture is wonderful, but. There's just something different about holding a piece, you know, a, a, a with their handwriting. Like you can't, that's just so unique to them.
No one writes like
Gerri: Like that. Yeah. I totally agree. I still have cards that my mom wrote to me and like birthday cards and letters and stuff. And it's like, I could never get rid of those ever.
Mica: So you mentioned when you explore like various prop houses, antique shops, your mission is to find unique items.
What makes a certain prop stand out to you?
Gerri: I don't know. It could be, it could be anything. It's just, it's just a feeling, you know, it's just a feel like I was recently at [00:52:00] a prop sale and there was so much stuff to choose from. But I saw these, this beautiful like soda bottle, but it was purple.
And there was a purple one and a blue one. And I'm thinking, what is that?
I'm thinking, I've never seen this. Absolutely beautiful. So I bought them. It was something that I hadn't seen before. And it's, they were obviously very old, and of course it may not have even been for soda, but it was a bottle of something that's, that held some kind of liquid. Absolutely beautiful. So if I see something that speaks to me and something that I've never seen before, I'm very drawn to those kinds of things.
Mica: It's like you, you just want to know what life, what, what its existence was like.
Gerri: What, exactly, like, you know, who, who held this bottle, what did they use it for? Like, what, [00:53:00] what is it about this thing that I'm so drawn to? A prop house that I had quite a bit of history with recently closed. It's called Prop Workshop and I was there, you know, to buy some things.
I was looking at all the things that I had used in past shoots and it was just, it was almost painful for me. There was a brief period where I stopped styling for a while. And I became manager of this place. It was called Prop Workshop, as I said. And I, I knew almost every piece personally, because I was there every day.
I was looking at stuff. I was arranging things on the shelves and to see that, you know, a lot of this stuff, and I can't even tell you some of the stuff, like when in the track, it was just too much. It was, it was, it was like painful.
Mica: It makes you wish, like, gosh, I wish I had a, a giant warehouse where I could just grab all of that [00:54:00] and take it with me.
Gerri: Yeah, it was, it was, it was pretty, it was pretty emotional for me. I can't lie about that. And I know a lot of my people who hear this will have the same kind of feeling about it. Because, you know, a lot of my Prop Stylist friends were there. Robin was there, actually, and we were thinking, looking at each other like, Is this really happening?
It's, it was so weird. It was really, really sad.
Mica: When the pandemic started, it was, it was really hard, I mean, on top of seeing so many people, lose their lives, you're also seeing so many loving businesses. In Austin, we have the South by Southwest Festival and it really, it's a, it brings in a lot of revenue.
Gerri: It's major.
Mica: Major, major. Major. Major. When this was all starting, I was like, if they cancel South by Southwest, then I'll know it's serious, because Austin would never. And then they did it. I was like, what is this rule? What is [00:55:00] happening?
Then everything shut down, and so many local restaurants were just left and right. All my shoots got canceled, and it was a really scary time. It was really hard to see the businesses struggling and now that things are turning around, you think about all those businesses that weren't able to keep open, to stay open, and it's just like, it's really heartbreaking.
Gerri: So, so Mika, what did you do during that time? Like, what, how did you fill your time?
Mica: Believe it or not, I ended up getting a lot busier.
So I actually booked a lot of brands that were outside of Austin, and they would just mail me their food products, or they'd, you know, reimburse me. I could go to the grocery store and the other thing that really was helpful is that, my husband, he has...
A day job that was able to support us while, while I was figuring this out because that was like my whole, whole quarter, whole year, whole everything. It's very [00:56:00] scary. But, it put me back in the studio because I did a lot of on location shoots, I was like, I never want to be in the studio ever again.
But it brought me back in the studio and I'm actually pretty grateful for it because now I can get so creative and so crazy in the studio that I couldn't do on location.
It's just different.
Gerri: It's a different vibe, right?
Mica: Yes. Yes. Much different vibe. Much much different vibe.
So I cannot end this interview without talking about your cookbook that you worked on. Congratulations. That book is gorgeous! Gorgeous.
Gerri: The, the Meyer, Meyer Feller.
Mica: Yes, The Eating
Gerri: Eat from our roots, yes!
Mica: yes. What, that book is so colorful. The colors were just jumping off. It's so beautiful.
Gerri: Thank you, Mica, thank you so [00:57:00] much. It was, it was incredible. The photographer, Christine Han. She's so talented and so sweet. The food stylist was Monica Perini. Incredibly talented. It was just, it was a dream job. It really was. And I'm so happy with the way it turned out. But I have to say too, Mica, I have another cookbook coming out.
I'm not trying to plug anything, but.
Mica: Oh, please do. Plug in. Plug in. Tell me about this cookbook.
Gerri: So I styled a cookbook with, do you know Yowande Kamalafe?
Mica: No, I don't.
Gerri: You should look her up. She's, you know, she's a recipe developer. She's a cookbook writer.
And it's called My Everyday Lagos, I believe. She's Nigerian. And we did this cookbook, and it was during COVID. It was shot [00:58:00] during COVID. Which was a challenge, but we were at a photographer's apartment. And it was intense. Everyone was masked up and, you know, we were trying to be very thoughtful of like, each other's space, but it was, it was intense. We got through it and it's, we got some beautiful shots, but yeah, it was, it was a bit of a challenge.
Mica: What was the favorite memory or one of your favorite memories from, from that experience?
Gerri: Oh, actually there was a moment when we were trying to figure out. What should be the cover of this cookbook? We just couldn't figure it out. And I'm so happy that they decided not to do like an image of like a dish of like food, but they hired in the end, an illustrator to draw.
Oh my God, the cover of this book is absolutely stunning.
It's really special. [00:59:00] So yeah, I think that's coming out maybe in October of this year. So yeah, I'm excited. I've had a pretty busy, like I'm going to say three years, I've been doing quite a few cookbooks and working quite a bit, so I'm, I feel very blessed.
Mica: Okay, so I have one last question for you.
Gerri: Yes. Yes. My dear.
Mica: What do you hope the listeners gain from today's episode? What advice would you give to a new stylist who, especially stylists of color who are coming into this industry?
Gerri: I, I would say know your craft, do your research, try to align yourself with like minded people. Like photographers who have the same, creative vision that you have. Allow yourself to learn from the people that. Even though you may not know the people that you're going to be working with, try to learn from those people [01:00:00] and establish relationships, because that's kind of what I've done.
Some of the photographers you probably talk to, I've learned probably so much from those people, from those photographers that you spoke to. It's like creating a relationship and learning from, from the people that you're working with. That's my advice. Go in. Be determined, know your craft, work hard.
You have to work hard because in some ways, people of color sometimes have to really, you have to prove yourself to people like I'm the person you should hire. I'm going to work hard. You might have to work a little bit harder than other people, but do it because I can guarantee you it'll be worth it.
That's, that's my advice.
Mica: That's such great advice. Especially as a person of color, because, we are always put in positions where we have to work twice as hard, prove ourselves twice as hard. Just to prove that we deserve a seat at the table.
Gerri: But [01:01:00] it's doable. We've probably both had those experiences, but we're here, we're doing our thing. We're still doing it. So there's something to it.
Mica: Gerri, thank you so, so much for being on the show. Where can we respectfully follow you?
Gerri: On Instagram. I'm actually going to launch a website in the very near future. So I'm working on that. But for now, my Instagram is the best way to see my work and see, you know, the kind of things that I like it. So will you do seven on Instagram. I just have to say that, I thank you so much for reaching out to me.
I feel so honored that you. That you reached out to me and have me on your show. I thank you so much. It's been such, such a nice hour. Has it been an hour? Oh my God. It may have been more. I don't
Mica: It's been more. People are shocked and they're like, Oh my gosh, how much time has passed? Then it's like I told you, it's like a conversation.[01:02:00]
Gerri: I mean, it's like, you know, when you're talking to your friend on the phone and you lose track of time, that's how I, I'm feeling right now. But so thank you so much.
Mica: Really the honor is all mine and I'm just so glad that we connected because. You have a reputation for being the bomb. com and I can say for sure that the river is a true you are just an amazing person and I'm so glad we know each other now.
We're besties. You're my
Gerri: I know. And you know what? If you come to New York, if you come to Brooklyn, you have to, we have to hang out. You know that, right?
Mica: Oh my gosh, I, I, I'm definitely coming to New York now. I, I've
Gerri: Please do.
Mica: I've got to miss it. If I'm not going to live, then I might as well come every chance that I can, so I'm definitely, definitely. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Well, thank you again so much for being on the show.
Gerri: Thank you for having me. Thank you, Mica. I appreciate it.