Jack

Devant

James Bond of ballet photography.

His works is recognizable, but it’s not so easy to find out the photographer in the theater. He enters the latest, and leaves it as soon the curtain closes. You will never hear the clicks of his camera during the performance, and the first-class strict costume will confuse you completely, and you will take him for an important guest at the premiere.

For your attention – Jack Devant and a few words about his destiny and passion for ballet.

Anna Ol and Jozef Varga
J

Jack, what is ballet to you?

Ballet – it is training the human body to its maximum aesthetic ability – both in movement and static poses. It is the golden ratio, Leonardo da Vinci’s divine proportion. Maybe this is why I only take photos of classics and neoclassics. I do not know how to capture modern ballet because the aesthetics lie in the movements, not the static poses. I do think highly of classical ballet, especially because it is an old set of canons that has been developed over a long period. Old traditions and high requirements are not bad, instead they add ballet some value, non-repeated uniqueness, which is hard and time-consuming to replicate. This is what makes ballet valuable. Moreover, ballet is also one of the most elitist ways to gain aesthetic experience. Each top dancer’s concert is a unique and rare event. It takes place in a geographical location, during a certain period of time and for a limited audience.

«My aim is to blend in and be invisible. I am the last to enter and the first to leave the hall»

Why did you choose a ballet photograph? Tell us about why you are attracted to ballet?

I have been a balletomane for about 20 years. I have taken photos for about 30 years. Ballet photography seemed like a good opportunity to connect these two interests. In addition, I am free to travel all over the world. When you add my skills to these opportunities, you get a beautiful competitive package. Ballet photography gives me the unique chance to capture aesthetic value, the creation of which has demanded lots of energy: from the composer, choreographer, director, costume designer, lighting designer and many others. It feels like all of the world’s most beautiful models are sought out for the photographer, dressed in their best costumes and set in the most stunning studios. Unfortunately, the photographer cannot control the lighting and cannot ask for another take of the last grand jete. 🙂

How do you prepare for the shooting?

As I take photos all over the world, my preparation starts weeks before the concert. I book my flights and the hotel. This, too, has its own nuances. When choosing the flight, I allow for some spare time, if possible, so I am able to reach the theatre via other means in the case if the flight is cancelled or delayed. I always book a hotel near the theatre. I want to be sure that I am there on time and nothing disturbs my preparation for the night’s highlight. I definitely introduce myself to all of the key-performers. I read about them online to find out where they have studied and in which theatres they have danced, so I know what to expect. Sometimes I watch a recording of the ballet; some classical pieces can be interpreted differently and I like to know precisely what shall happen in the play and when. More about my routines: I usually eat a strong meal about 1.5 hours before the show and take a water bottle with me, so I have the energy to be fully focused until the last step is taken on stage.

Before leaving the hotel, I check all of my photo equipment – memory cards, batteries, lenses; I also take some test photos.

I always wear proper clothes, suitable for the opera theatre. Not many photographers do this; they turn up wearing jeans and a sweater, while all the other guests have made an effort for the event and are prepared. I want to be in the theatre about an hour before, so I can familiarise myself with the place. Once I arrived just before the show started, so my concentration was ruined for almost the entire first act. My aim is to blend in and be invisible. I am the last to enter and the first to leave the hall; I take photos discreetly with my absolutely silent Sony A9 camera. After the show, I make copies of my memory cards. To sum up, you need to pay lots of attention to technical aspects. Simply enjoying ballet in the theatre is such an enjoyable and restful event compared to taking photos.

Share with us your most unusual place where you had ballet photoshoot?

I believe that the real magic of ballet only happens on the stage of a historical opera theatre, in front of an audience who has waited for this night impatiently. Therefore, I only prefer to take photos of real shows. If I am asked to take photos outside a show, I avoid the studio and do it right there in the theatre. Old opera houses offer lots of opportunities due to their beautiful interiors.

However, once I photographed a prima ballerina dressed as Odette by the sea, on a quay. The concrete surface had been broken by the wind and the waves; it was uneven, and there was some wind. I noticed instantly that the ballerina was disturbed by all of this and she did not feel confident, but in the end we managed to complete the photo-shoot. No wonder, as her entire training and work, ten thousand hours, have been spent on even linoleum without any effects of weather. I do not usually like taking the ballerina onto a street or into a photo studio – there must be a good reason for this and great additional value that can be seen in the photo. Objectification of a ballerina is not a good genre. Although I love taking photos from the middle and the back of the hall – this is where the entire show has been directed – I have also taken great emotional satisfaction from photographing behind the scenes. Being close to the dancers and the show adds some intimacy to the photos.

Jack Devant

www.jackdevant.com

www.instagram.com/jack.devant

«I have been a balletomane for about 20 years. I have taken photos for about 30 years»

Svetlana Zakharova and Francesca da Rimini
Suzanna Kaic and Vito Mazzeo Pas de deux from the ballet Overture
Elisa Carrillo Cabrera and Mikhail Kaniskin in Kazimir’s Colours
Oxana Skorik "Giselle"
Olga Smirnova and Alexander Volchkov Diamonds from Jewels
Alexander Stoyanov Don Quixote- Grand Pas
Alina Somova "Swan Lake"
Ekaterina Borchenko "Laurencia"
Aliya Tanykpayeva and Dmitry Timofeev "Romeo and Juliet"
Diana Vishneva "Switch"
Yulia Stepanova and Denis Rodkin "Macbeth"

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