Photography for the Joffrey Ballet's Season Brochure

April 4, 2013
The Huffington Post
Christopher Duggan


Video by Nel Shelby Productions

When The Joffrey Ballet asked if I was willing to go to Chicago for three days to photograph their dancers for their 2013-2014 season brochure, I was thrilled. Arranging the photo shoot to fit the dancers' schedules was so tight, there was only one week to make it work for all of us. It just so happened that was the week Hurricane Sandy was rolling into New York City.

The night before my wife Nel, daughter Gracie and I were supposed to fly to Chicago, all the flights were cancelled. There wasn't any chance of rescheduling the shoot. So we piled our cameras in the car, quickly prepped for the 13-hour drive and hit the road before the rain. I'm so glad we did.

I brought my assistant Whitney Browne with me from NYC, because working together as a team helps get things right so much faster. We discussed ahead of time the looks we were going for in terms of lighting and backdrop, and we were able to order the equipment to get the set ready. I brought my cameras and rented everything else locally. The rental company made things super easy for us as they delivered everything right to us. And they delivered for FREE which is unheard of in NYC. That was an added bonus!

Joffrey gave me two days to work five different setups with the dancers, which was great. We scheduled three-hour time slots for each of the five performance programs, starting with Romeo & Juliet. The dancers arrived early to have hair, make-up and costumes ready for shooting. Each three-hour shoot ends up resulting in 1-3 final photographs that get used in the brochure and other marketing materials.

Ashley C. Wheater, the Artistic Director, myself, the creative team, and sometimes, the dancers all bring ideas to the table. So it's good to have a few hours to work out different kinds of scenarios. It's always good to leave room to improve on different poses and movements and room for spontaneity, too.

Once the photo shoot is complete, I made selections and worked on the images in a post-production process that involved some "clean up," making sure all the images were consistent in color, contrast, exposure, etc. I played with some creative cropping on a few of the final photographs, and then I delivered them to Joffrey.

From there, The Joffrey's creative staff go through their selection process and turn the images over to their internal graphics department to create the brochure and overall graphic design concepts. I had no part in that process, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the gorgeous layouts that they made. I was proud of what we did together.

See the full finished season brochure on my blog.

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