Oct 26, 2010
Our Artist Answers series continues with Prop & Set Designer, Kevin Hertzog. This established industry pro has worked his way up to be one of the go-to set designers and prop stylists in fashion. We were excited at the opportunity to dive into his head to find out more about this unique role.
Explain a set designer’s role in a photoshoot.
Look at a photograph. Take away the model. Everything else is the responsibility of the set designer (except the lighting). This goes for something as complicated as a full circus set up in the desert or something as simple as the fabric blowing in the wind behind the model. There is a chance that a location was arrived at with no alteration at all, but there is much less likelihood of this being the case if the picture is in a magazine. Whether it’s an advertisement or editorial page, there is almost always a set designer involved. That “snowy field” may have been bright green grass before the set designer dumped 9 boxes of fake snow on top of it…
How did you land in this career field?
I wanted to be a fashion stylist and my best friend got a job at Elle magazine. I was thrilled, assuming that she would usher me into the fashion department
effortlessly. Unfortunately, at that time, the woman in charge was only hiring pretty young girls she was attracted to, so I was out. Coincidentally, Elle Decor was starting up that same month and the Special Projects Editor was looking for an assistant. My friend arranged for us all to have dinner, after which we smoked a joint. Feeling frisky, I made out with the editor a little bit and, lo and behold, I got the job! The rest is history.
What’s been your favorite shoot to work on thus far?
I can’t believe I’m going to say this in print, but it was a recurring job I had twice a year for a few years: a bridal booklet for Kohl’s! I have worked for MANY fancy-schmancy clients, but that project was that magic combination of a really nice AND talented crew. I actually still have some of the pictures from those jobs in my book – the photographer was so amazing that she made Kohl’s look like Bergdorf’s. We all had a great time and did great work – what could be better?
What are some of your favorite places to scavenger for props?
I am an equal opportunity scavenger. I will go to [the] Barney’s warehouse sale and come out with amazing placentas, and I will go to Build It Green in Long Island City and find amazing, rusty metal tin ceiling panels that will wind up in Vanity Fair. I am status-blind when it comes to propping.
If you could work with anyone in the industry who would it be and why?
I have always wanted to work with Peter Lindbergh.. He gets something with his lighting that I have never seen anyone else get. I have a theory that it’s in the make up that Stephane Marais uses and I want to see if my theory right.
What advice do you have for aspiring fashion industry hopefuls?
Be on time. Be nice. Be yourself – nothing is worse than a cheap copy of someone else. Be engaged in the shoot – never sit down. NEVER!!!! Literally ANYONE who wants to work in this business can do it – all you need to do is show up on set somehow (internship, favor from a friend, stalking) and make yourself indispensable. Every single person in this business started at the beginning – and hard work trumps connections. If you are connected you get an introduction – if you are hard working you get asked back again and again.
Now that’s an eye-opening interview! A huge thank you to Kevin Hertzog for sharing his experience with us.