Chelsea & the City: My Madonna photo shoot

Posing with the model

A few weeks ago I was assigned a page on pet Halloween costumes. Obviously my first thought was, “We HAVE to shoot these.”  And guess what? WE ACTUALLY DID.

The photo editor and I went right at it. We set up a photoshoot with Brooklyn-based Jamie Chung, casted the animals from an agency and picked out the most hilarious costumes for our furry friends.

I wasn’t quite sure how these animals would react to being thrown into a Madonna costume with a long blonde wig and being shoved under big lights. But these animals were trained to the max. Their handler was there and I have never seen a cat and dog behave so well in my life. The cats, Barack and Tarajh, were pure black with the most radiant yellow eyes. One of the cats was featured on the last Real Simple cover, sitting in a pumpkin. He was only 6 months old though and didn’t fit in the costumes!) And the dog, Peanut, was just a scruffy little thing – smaller than one of the cats! They had such great personalities and seemed to have as much fun as I did.

From an art director standpoint, being at this shoot was an amazing experience. So many tiny details go into a photoshoot that no one ever sees. The shoot took place at the photographer’s studio in Brooklyn. I had never been to an actual photo studio before and it was beautiful. It was so fun to be there and watch these pages come to life before my eyes. The photo editor and I directed the shoot – placing the tail how we wanted, moving the hair on the wigs, adjusting the glasses, having them sit and stand in different positions – everything had to be perfect.

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It was so fun, but it was a little nerve-racking because you only have one chance to get this right. We were going through the photos as they were being shot and choosing the ones we loved. I have never experienced that before which was really cool – in some ways I kind of felt like I was on a fashion shoot … but for animals. I was able to start sketching a few ideas for my design while we were going through the photos as well and collaborate with the photographer on his thoughts too. I loved being able to be part of an idea from the very beginning all the way through the setup, the shoot, the design and the final print product. I felt like it all came together at once and it was a beautiful new experience.

Check out last week’s TIME to see them in person and find a perfect costume for your furry friend to wear tonight!

About Chelsea Kardokus

Chelsea Kardokus is a designer at TIME magazine.

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