Terrence Caviar is the dynamic creative duo of stylist Michelle Maguire and photographer Kelsey McClellan.
Michelle and Kelsey style and shoot photos for brands, create photo essays, and collaborate on a range of art projects. They even sell some of their work as prints in their shop, so you can have some tasty treats on your wall.
Aside from their sharp eyes, they’re unique in another way: They don’t live anywhere close to each other. Michelle is based in Columbus, Ohio; Kelsey lives in San Francisco. They were kind enough to let us use their photos from their Wardrobe Snacks project to show off our newest design template, Snacks, and we had to take the opportunity to get to know them better. We learned a bit about their process as a team of two, how the distance impacts their collaborations, and why personal projects are so important to them.
Photos provided by Terrence Caviar.
What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?
Michelle: Columbus is the land of terrific thrift stores and estate sales, so I’m always gathering stuff - objects, clothing, paper ephemera, carpet remnants, you name it - that I think will photograph well, but I really hunt like crazy when there’s a shoot coming up. Styling combines my love of hunting and collecting and organizing, and then thinking about ways of arranging those collected objects within a visual frame.
Kelsey: Shooting it! Because we’ve usually got good music on and are snacking on something we just finished shooting and are smiling at the surfers slipping into wetsuits outside my living room window. (When we shoot in San Francisco - I live on the coast!)
How does the long-distance working relationship impact your collaborations? With one of you living in Columbus and the other in San Francisco, dealing with the distance can’t be easy.
Michelle: The distance between us is frustrating! Lead-time for assignments is usually very short, and about once a week I find myself wishing I could teleport. Lately, though, people call us because they feel we’re right for a job, not because of our location. That feels incredible.
Kelsey: We rely heavily on our phones to send each other photos of different props and surfaces one of us finds. We would definitely be shooting much more often if we were in the same place, since currently we have to plan every shoot to happen in the three or so times a year we can be together!
What’s been an unexpected benefit of working as a team of two?
Michelle: We jibe well, both visually and personally. There’s immense mutual trust and understanding we share. And I think we’re both pretty good at being thrown into a situation and making something out of it. We’re also both pretty chill.
How do you know when you’ve found the right idea to pursue for a new project?
Michelle: Intuition and gut.
Kelsey: When it’s something we can’t wait to make, and wish we’d already seen.
How’d you come up with the idea for Wardrobe Snacks?
Michelle: Wardrobe Snacks was inspired by diners lacking the luxury of being seated at a table: my stepdad who rests his sandwich on his thigh in between bites (hell with a plate!) while he blasts an action movie on his TV; a commuter cramped up on a crowded bus retrieving an item from a bag or pocket; a lunch-breaker on a park bench eating from her lap. They’re informal - perhaps even a bit awkward - spaces as far as eating is concerned, yet the diners always appear to be comfortable and perfectly satisfied with their chosen snack, almost Zen-like.
Kelsey: We’ve always enjoyed shooting food together because of how varied the subjects can be - so many foods are aesthetically pleasing in different ways. Before we thought of this particular project we were thinking of how to shoot food without including a table surface.
Wardrobe Snacks received a fair amount of press - from features in The Guardian to Colossal and all kinds of places in between - what was that like?
Michelle: It was unexpected and totally flattering. It feels terrific to be recognized for something we have so much fun creating, and it’s led to assignments and commissions that fit us very well personally.
Kelsey: It feels really great, usually we just made work that we like for fun, and almost as a visual exercise - it’s amazing to have so many people we don’t know personally engaging and enjoying the work with us this time.
How do you promote your work?
Michelle: Social media (mostly Instagram). And this summer we printed a small promotional accordion book of Wardrobe Snacks that we recently sent out to editors in attempts to drum up assignments. It’s cool: it’s perforated, so the recipients can easily tear away a 4x5 card and share with a friend, or keep the whole collection to themselves.
Kelsey: Yeah, mostly just Instagram and our websites. We only printed 75 promo books to send to very specific editors and people we admire. After we finished the first 6 images for Wardrobe Snacks we emailed some submission pages of blogs that we like and thought would respond well to it. I believe Trendland was the first to share it, not even a week after we’d written them, then Aint-Bad shortly after. From there it has been re-pinned on Pinterest thousands of times, which is pretty crazy.
What’s a lesson you’ve learned from making your work that you wish you had known five or ten years ago?
Michelle: To trust that doing what you love will lead to great people in great places.
Kelsey: To keep making personal projects that you are passionate about, not because you’ve been hired to do it.
Can you share why it’s so important to carve out time for personal projects? Do you use that as an opportunity to make the kind of work you wish you could be making?
Michelle: Creating personal work is the most genuine way of expressing one’s truest style, which is ultimately what leads to someone being attracted to your work and wanting to hire you or collaborate. When working for a client, I’m constantly having to consider whether they’ll approve of the items I’ve gathered. My job is to be sure they’re comfortable and happy. It’s a nice challenge that I enjoy very much. But when I’m doing my own thing, I don’t question whether something is working - I just go with what feels right. Jobs typically come with really tight timeframes, but with personal projects, I can take necessary breaks which organically allow new bits of inspiration to seep in.
Kelsey: Yes - Working for a client and for yourself can be both be very challenging in their own ways. Sometimes freelance is more difficult because there are more restrictions as far as style, subject, and the deadline and budget is always tight! Whereas for yourself you are creating exactly what you want on your own terms - the hard part is coming up with the project and making time to do it.
If you each switched roles for a day, what do you think you’d take away from the experience?
Michelle: I imagine I would do a lot of head-scratching! I absolutely love composing shots, but so much of shooting is extremely and increasingly technical - always having to make sure digital equipment and software is updated and compatible and in sync makes my brain short-out. Kelsey is calm and cool under pressure, and able to resolve and work around maddening computer glitches.
Kelsey: Oh man, I think I’d feel really overwhelmed by all of the possibilities as far as prop shopping goes. Michelle is soooo talented at honing in on really special pieces from all sorts of unexpected places. It takes a really unique perspective to be able to spot an item completely out of context and visualize it on a set as something great and part of a whole.