Paint the Town: Shooting With Design Army

Jake and of Design Army give a behind the scenes look at their Washington Life cover shoot.
By Michael M. Clements

Cover of Washington Life Magazine's March Issue

Washington Life: How did the concept for the Washington Ballet shoot come about?
Design Army: Septime [Webre] asked us to take a look at some costume sketches during an meeting for the Washington Ballet‘s [TWB] season brochure, we all said it would be great to do a shoot with them since they were so amazingly cool – so we did. We did not have a large production budget so we knew it would have to be done in studio and styled with great hair/make-up and be overly engaging.

WL: Where was the shoot held?
DA: At the TWB Studios.

Putting the Hat on the Mad Hatter. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

WL: How did you come up with the ideas for each individual shot?
DA: We wanted to capture the personality of each character, but also highlight each dancer – the queen is ready to kick some serious ballet ass! Alice’s hair is a mess since she just fell down the rabbit hole and she’s confused of where she landed – and how did that rabbit get in my hands? Same for the other images – they just speak to the character and the dancers artistry.

WL: How do you capture movement so well?
DA: Luck – when the dancers jump you have to snap the camera at the perfect moment. The dancers did a lot of jumping that day and was clicking at all the right times.  Also having a plan (sketch or storyboard) helps explain the concepts to the dancers/models so they do not waste time on set.

WL: Who did the styling for the dancers? And what is different about styling for a photoshoot compared to a live performance?
DA: did the hair and make-up for the shoot (we love Dean) and we wanted to have a editorial style for hair/make-up – so the make-up is a little lighter and lots of fake eye-lashes. We also brought a whole trunk full of wigs to work with; so what you see in these images is not exactly what you will see on stage – but close. The stage make-up is typically more pronounced (and sweat proof!) an heavily applied. There is a fine line between costume and fashion – we just happen to know where to draw that line.

WL: How long did the shoot take, and how many people did it take to achieve the final pages?
DA: Just one day – starting at 7am and wrapping at 6pm; about 1.5hrs or so per shot – but they are very high energy with all the jumping and standing on-pointe. In total, we had a crew of about 8 people there helping with everything.

Make up on the Queen. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

WL: What’s the most difficult part of producing a shoot like this?
DA: Picking the one perfect shot from each set – not easy and takes a great eye to do it; and on top of that we also have to look at the pose/point of the dancers to make sure they are in correct form.

WL: What’s the process of putting a shoot like this together? Do you start with a vision board?
DA: Purpose is to help raise awareness for the TWB (and sell tickets) and DC is a creative city/town – not all politics and corruption.
We always start with a concept and then work on the board/vision for the shoot. We pull a lot of reference images; especially for the make-up/hair and lighting since it’s very hard to sketch out those items.

WL: Design Army is known for its unique vision and almost surreal take on fashion shoots, what’s the trick to staying fresh and always doing something that raises the bar?
DA: Don’t just do what you think needs to be done – think crazy and then worry about how to execute it. If you are safe with your creative then you are not doing it different.

WL: Being a husband and wife team can be challenging, how do you manage to work together so successfully and be able to separate the work aspect from the persona?
DA: We blend work and life – we fight a lot, but we also compliment each other quite well. Jake keeps it grounded; and Pum makes it insane. It works out quite well; I guess you can say there’s no great ideas with out a touch of “madness!”

WL: What’s next for Design Army?
Who knows – we are always up to something new and different; perhaps more video work in 2012 or a product line. We will have to wait to see; we often post to our Facebook page all the latest and greatest work. Like Us!

WL: If you could do a photoshoot of anything or anyone in Washington DC what and who would it be?
DA: Obama 2014 – but we are pretty sure we may cause some controversy!

, Choreographer for The Washington Ballet. (Photo courtesy Design Army)

Septime Webre and Sona Kharatian. (Photo courtesy Design Army)

Tweedledum and Tweedledee. (Photo courtesy Design Army)

White Rabbit (Photo courtesy Design Army)

The Queen and her two backstage helpers. (Photo courtesy Design Army)

White Rabbit on the clock. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Alice's wardrobe change. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Design Army's inspiration book. (Photo courtesy Design Army)

Jared Nelson pre-Mad Hatter transformation. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Wigs of Wonderland. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Septime Webre and Jared Nelson. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Maki Onuki (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

Design Army Co-founder Pum Lefebure. (Photo courtesy of Design Army)

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