Styling has an element of magic about it. How is it that an object can suddenly pop by moving one prop to the left, adding a bit of green, and shifting the composition ever so slightly? To those who love to style, whether as a career or as an enthusiast, there is nothing more satisfying. To others, it’s magic.
Janice Dunwoody is a master at making anything beautiful, from clothing to food to interior spaces. She’s the friend who can make a snack plate into a work of art. As a professional photo stylist, her intense and particular style infuses her daily life and her work. We discussed her beginnings as a stylist, her ever-changing home, and her dramatic introduction to Maine.
"Many people think I’m a designer or photographer, but I’m not.
I’m a photo stylist—building the image one layer at a time."
Most recent purchase:
Domi’s classic pajamas, white
Favorite location in Maine:
Jewell Island, sugar-baby pebble beach
Coffee, black, small cup, medium roast
When styling, at all times remain:
Organized. Calm. Present.
Favorite decade for interior style:
Current, it’s a mix of it all.
THE MAINERS: Photo styling is a career that might be mysterious to some—can you describe what you do?
JANICE: Photo styling encompasses many forms of styling. I'd like to think my style brings warmth and consistency to each project. My job is to elevate the image by working closely with the photographer and the client to enhance the product or space, or even the lifestyle.
In the end, it's always about the subject we're shooting and not at all about me. I style within the dimension of the photo crop. One inch beyond the frame is inconsequential to the process. Many people think I’m a designer or photographer, but I’m not. I’m a photo stylist—building the image one layer at a time.
THE MAINERS: To me, your career is one of those, “How did she get that amazing job?” kind of jobs. How did you start your career? Was there a specific event that set your course?
JANICE: A pink Dolce & Gabbana dress gets credit for starting my career. It just happened to match the decor of an event I was attending. The producer of the event asked me if I did it on purpose, and I said yes. Which was true, but I had only done it for the laughs. A week later, I was being paid to style a fireplace mantle for an editorial magazine. Work hasn’t slowed since. Timing is everything in life.
THE MAINERS: What three words describe the style/vibe of your home?
JANICE: Purposeful. Untucked. Fresh.
THE MAINERS: Does the style of your home stay constant, or do you change it frequently?
JANICE: It changes often, almost with the seasons. Especially the art. I swap out art all the time, even going as far to re-frame. It makes a difference, albeit a subtle one. Just like the right shoes with an outfit.
THE MAINERS: What’s a favorite find you have in your home?
JANICE: I can say my most recent favorite find is a large sepia-tone classroom map of the early railway systems in New England.
THE MAINERS: Did you have an interest in fashion and interiors as a child, or did it come later in life?
JANICE: My first styling project was Kitty, our cat. I styled her with mother’s costume jewelry, fastening a diamond bracket around her neck and sitting her on the window sill and then admiring her beauty. I was five.
THE MAINERS: What about fashion? Do you have a clear memory of a piece of clothing you loved?
JANICE: I remember a red dress with white rick-rack. I wouldn’t take it off except when it had to be washed. I was indulged in that way, or maybe it was just a battle my mom chose not to fight. But I saw these little victories as milestones in developing my style.
"Honestly, I think [the ability to style] is innate.
Stylists know what will work and what won’t. It’s hard to give a satisfying answer when someone asks, “How did you do that” or “How did you know that pillow would work on that chair?”
THE MAINERS: When you approach a job, what creative process do you go through?
JANICE: During any type of pre-production meeting or call, I sit with a pad of paper and pen and sketch out a visual in my mind of product placement, the element it’s sitting on, the props next to it, the possible background it will have. As with all prop styling, the combinations are endless: color palette, camera angle, surfaces, organics to be used.
THE MAINERS: Do you believe someone can learn to style, or is it an innate ability?
JANICE: Honestly, I think it’s innate. Stylists know what will work and what won’t. It’s hard to give a satisfying answer when someone asks, “How did you do that” or “How did you know that pillow would work on that chair?”
When I was a child, I remember my mother saying, “There’s no accounting for good taste, you either have it or you don’t.” From that moment on, I really wanted to be the one who had it. Good design lasts and style is fleeting; it’s magic when they come together even for a second in a photograph.
THE MAINERS: Do you have any formal training in art or design?
JANICE: It’s funny. I started out in Interior Design at the University of Florida, but the program’s structure was super mechanical. So that first year I switched majors and ended up with two degrees, a BA in Communications and a BS in Computer Science. Ultimately, I circled back through job choices and career moves to my natural love for interior spaces and design.
THE MAINERS: How does Maine influence your sense of fashion and style?
JANICE: Maine is a fantastic petri dish for style. That doesn’t sound very glamorous. But I think Maine is straight forward in its acceptance of styles because of the diversity of Mainers in general. Most jobs here are tangible and dictate the garb: makers, farmers, landscapers, fishermen, etc. The trails and cobblestones aren’t forgiving for heels. It takes some sleuthing to find the non-slippery, attractive mud-shoe that will keep your feet warm October through March and look good while doing it.
THE MAINERS: Where did you grow up?
JANICE: Florida. But it’s a joke in my family to say “L.A.” Meaning lower Alabama. I’m from a part of Florida that’s more “southern” than the palms and pink flamingos that everyone thinks of when they hear Florida.
THE MAINERS: What brought you to Maine?
JANICE: My ex-husband and his family ties. When we moved here, we flew in from Coronado, California and had everything shipped, even our station wagon. I had never been to Maine before.
THE MAINERS: That’s an abrupt transition, especially for a Southern.
JANICE: I felt like I landed in a different country. Being raised in Florida and educated in Southern California, I had no idea what to expect. I actually thought there were no restaurants and that people generally stayed inside during the winter. I remember one night in November asking someone if we were having an eclipse, it was so dark.
I was very naïve. But I quickly witnessed the beauty of winter and athleticism of Mainers, and how hearty and bright you become outside in the winter.
"The trails and cobblestones aren’t forgiving for heels [in Maine]. It takes some sleuthing to find the non-slippery, attractive mud-shoe that will keep your feet warm October through March and look good while doing it."
THE MAINERS: Can you tell us a bit about your jewelry collection? The coins are beautiful and unusual.
JANICE: My father was an avid collector of coins. He had a serious collection. As a present to me, he beveled gold pesos and made dangle earrings with a matching necklace. They were small, shiny and beautiful and my first real jewelry. By this time, word was out about his collection and we were robbed. A real home invasion with broken locks and a busted closet where he had made a fake wall to hide those treasures. They even ransacked our jewelry boxes and found my peso set.
Most of it was stolen that night, but dad was a step ahead and had buried some coins in a hole in the front yard. After my father passed away what remained was divided among my siblings, and I landed with a few ancient roman coins, which I wear all the time.
THE MAINERS: Do you have a favorite place to shop?
JANICE: In Maine or otherwise, I always try local first, especially if there is a budget for props. The larger places are convenient and anonymous, but the makers and the talented curators make the experience enjoyable, and create an end product that’s special. It shows through the image.
I rely on so many places in Maine. They make my work look good. My local home go-to’s are Venn & Maker, Flea For All, Architectural Salvage and Blanche & Mimi. Clothing favs are Judith, Cory & Co, South Street Linen and Le Bouton.
THE MAINERS: What calms you?
JANICE: Walking my ex’s Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Tucker. Hah, I could have just said Tucker, but it’s fun to put all those words together. And oh yes, preparing food.
THE MAINERS: What gives you energy?
JANICE: A good night’s sleep.
THE MAINERS: What about Maine most inspires you?
JANICE: The water and seeing the coastline from the water.