Todd Davis


Originally from Seattle, Todd Davis works as a prop stylist in Los Angeles. From an early age, he began making things with his hands out of whatever materials he could find, not knowing he would later do the same as a career. His work is colorful and whimsical and tends to feel handcrafted.

Photographer based in Los Angeles, CA, USA.


You come from a fine art background.  How did you get into creating sets and props for photoshoots?

I think an art background serves as a great foundation for what I do now, though it is certainly not the only path a person can take.  After college, I got involved with theater set design and preparator work installing exhibitions in museums and galleries around Los Angeles, both of which challenged and inspired my own sense of design and were fantastic training grounds for working with a team.  I also had an early stint in the film industry working in an office as a production assistant.  I was miserable and terrible at most tasks I was asked to do, but got introduced to the art department and immediately felt like that was where I belonged.

I look at your work and see color.  What led you to that bold aesthetic?

I really don’t know.  I’ve always liked work that is darker and more subdued, both visually and in terms of its subject matter.  But for whatever reason, my own work, and what I enjoy creating is often playful, colorful, and not entirely serious.

Everyone needs a little help along the way.  Who has been a significant influence in your career?

I have a dear friend who I met early on in this business.  She and I sort of grew up in it together assisting other designers.  We supported each other as we branched out on our own — working together, sharing contacts and resources, and passing one another job opportunities.  It was invaluable.  I also assisted an established prop stylist for a few years.  I appreciated his imperfect, crafty, and beautifully textured aesthetic and as time went on he gave me a deeper window into the business side of things, dealing with clients, and managing expectations.  I learned a great deal from him.

You have the ability to take the ordinary and make it look extraordinary.  How do you start that process?

Well shucks. That is very kind of you.  I’m always amazed by people who dedicate themselves to a singular, focused practice.  But that’s not me.  I find myself wanting to explore and experiment with new things all the time, and something consistent with me from a young age is an affinity for common objects.  I love finding an unintentional use for something, repurposing it in a new way.

The creative process on set is often a collaboration.  Tell us about one of your favorite images and share how it came together with the photographer and other creatives on set?

On a shoot for Vans recently with the photographer Stephanie Gonot, we were asked to explore creative ways to present the shoes using foam.  Stephanie and I came up with an idea that looked a bit like puffy foam clouds – which in concept we very simple but in actuality proved really challenging to hold the shape we wanted and grip the shoes in just the right way.  I came prepared with all sorts of clamps and other tricks, but in the end, the solution was for a bunch of us to hold and manipulate the shape with our own hands.  Pretty much everyone got involved: me, my assistants, the photo assistants, even the creative director.  Our hands were cramping, one of us may have cried a little, but it was totally worth it : )  The process was kind of hilarious and in the end, the images were really striking and effective.

Given total creative freedom and an unlimited budget, what would you shoot?

I’m very drawn to storytelling, whether through an image, an orator, a film, or whatever else. I’ve been writing a screenplay for quite some time that I would love to make into a feature length film.  If given endless resources, I would dedicate myself to it entirely for a season. 

What makes a great stop motion piece work?

To me it doesn’t matter how sophisticated or simplistic a piece might be.  What draws me in is the story, no matter how short, and the emotional experience.  Also, I love the trickery of it. Like creating a convincing illusion of gravity or flowing water.  It’s like magic, which I’m also a not-so-secret fan of.

What should creatives be doing more of?

Many creative professionals have personal side projects and interests.  Paid work often takes priority, leaving them withering on the vine.  But those pursuits are where some of the best ideas develop and are often the most meaningful and fulfilling.  And of course, elements of these pursuits eventually trickle into the commercial landscape as well.

Do you have the time to work on personal projects?

I’m not always productive with the limited time I have, but I am dedicated to some projects of my own.  The playful, colorful side of me has been creating a series of short animations celebrating each new year that I share with friends and colleagues every January to connect and celebrate.  And a more subdued art project of mine involves translating private experiences into visual patterns through a sequence of tiny holes in paper.

All images are copyright © Todd Davis or used with his permission.

1 Comment

  1. Meiko Arquillos

    8th May 2019 - 6:03 pm

    […] Read Todd’s interview here: https://prepro.io/todd-davis/ […]

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