This is an experiment in dance, an exercise that captures the subtleties of movement, the physicality of the subject and the exploration of emotion. Photographed through an active fashion lens in stark black & white, the end result is a showcase of the human body in a constant state of motion...
A ballet dancer from Cedar Lake. An iconic voguer from the House of Ninja featured in the Balmain for H&M ads. A Broadway performer from Wicked and West Side Story. A diverse group of contemporary dancers and performers. A choreography consultant with Bloc Talent Group. Fitness and fashion models from Wilhelmina, Q and Soul Artist Management. A creative director with an idea. One director, two DP's and three photographers to shoot that idea. A fashion stylist represented by See Management. An agency-represented beauty team. Brooklyn-based jewelry & men's accessories brands. A full video editing team that have created content for Vice and FX. And a sound designer crafting a custom soundtrack.
Watch what happens when an amazing roster of talent comes together in a Brooklyn photo studio and busts it down with the cameras rolling—you've never seen a fashion film like this before.
Explore the passion, expression and subtleties of dance in a graphic black and white palette. Capture moments of intimacy, emotion and fashion through photo and video.
The first step in this photo and video concept: create a mood board detailing the visual language, bodies in motion, image composition and color palette. I compiled found imagery from photographers and directors like Jacob Sutton and Dominick Sheldon, with a focus on dancers like Lil Buck, who is able to twist and move his body in mysterious and graphic ways. This Lil Buck video, directed by Jacob Sutton, was a big source of inspiration for the Bustdown.
Mood board 1: THE BLACK SET
Mood board 2: THE WHITE SET
Tapping into my network of diverse creative talent and agency contacts, I began compiling a list of potential dancers and performers to include in the project. I also began discussing the idea with various other artists and creatives, to start building the team to execute the project. I received verbal commitments from all parties for a specified date and started production on the photo + video shoot.
Each dancer was hand-selected, all with impressive credentials. Utilizing my personal network, plus additional networking via social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, a dream team was formed.
I also linked up with Elena Vazintaris, a choreography consultant and stylist with Bloc Talent Group, and my close friend and colleague Joe Buffa (fitness instructor / dancer), both of whom were instrumental in building this impressive dance team. Some additional highlights:
A ballet dancer from Cedar Lake. An iconic voguer from the House of Ninja featured in the Balmain for H&M ads. A Broadway performer from Wicked and the West Side Story. A diverse group of contemporary dancers featured in NYC-based ads and events for Adidas and Refinery29.
In addition to a diverse roster of dancers and performers, I also included fitness and fashion model talent from iconic modeling agencies like Q, Soul Artist Management and Wilhelmina. These multi-talented individuals rounded out the group, providing the fashion component plus additional attitude for the Bustdown experience.
Since we'd be filming and photographing dancers and fitness models and focusing on the movement and beauty of the human form, it was a requirement for the photo studio space to be large, with a variety of equipment, plus a good sound system. After visiting many studios in the NYC area, I decided on Lightspace Studios, located in the hip and thriving creative hub of the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn. The space offered the size we needed, plus a full corner cyclorama for a variety of shooting angles.
Utilizing the creative talents of the in-studio videographers, plus the video editor and her diverse team consisting of an AE, animator, colorist, and music producers, we created a full-feature fashion film showcasing the Bustdown concept and the talents of each performer.
Akira Ruiz, director of photography
Angel "Oz" Navarro, director of photography
Winnie Cheung, editor
Claire Ensslin, assistant editor
Pachy Sarmiento, animator
Dan Rosato + Ross Travis, original music
David Packer, colorist
Thumbnails showing stills from the video on a mobile device.
Still from the video.
Still from the video.
Still from the video.
When we entered the photo studio and began the experiment, there were so many beautiful moments to capture. The video and stills were shot simultaneously, effectively maximizing our time and utilizing all the space in the photo studio.
Photos from the Black set.
Photos from the white set.
There are a few design themes running through the Bustdown concept:
- Graphic black & white palette
- Monochrome photo sets + fashion styling
- Clean lines with a modern feel
To this list, I added details such as tasteful typography, a thin condensed headline treatment, and a subtle marble texture in both black and white, to add visual interest to the frames and backgrounds for the images to live on.
For the overall design of the website, I selected 2 typefaces, Abolition Soft and Proxima Nova. Both are web fonts, and have a modern, graphic style. I also introduced a subtle marble texture in 3 shades: white / grey / black.
The Bustdown icon was derived from a photo of dancer and fitness model Julian Devine, taken while executing several breakdancing powermoves. This iconic photo was such an accurate expression of what the Bustdown really is, that it was a natural choice to create the logo from.
The Bustdown icon in use: WEBSITE DIVIDERS. I divided the images first by color, and then by the following adjectives for categorization, according to the focus of the image:
STRENGTH | GRACE | STYLE
The website was designed to be a fully immersive interactive experience, showcasing the still photography captured at the shoot. Each dancer was dressed in one white outfit and one black outfit and performed on the same color background. The images were then organized by format, with all landscape images being placed into slideshows, and all portrait images displayed as galleries.
The TITLE page of the website design.
The BRANDS page from the website showcasing the logos of each clothing brand used in the photoshoot.
The SQUAD page from the website, detailing all the talent involved in the making of this project. All in, from the inception of the idea, to the finished video and website, this project was powered by the talents of 40 performers and creators who volunteered their time to make something great.