Atlanta-born photographer Frederick Melton (1918-1992) came to Manhattan in 1939, where he worked in a variety of creative media. He was eventually introduced to George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins of the New York City Ballet, where he photographed nearly every facet of the company from the late 1940s through the 1950s. The Frederick Melton photographs collection of negatives and contact prints capture some of the company's most well-known productions, including intimate backstage moments, and set and costume designs. Many notable principal dancers are represented, including Tanaquil Le Clercq and Maria Tallchief, as well as co-founders Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. Melton also focused on the School of American Ballet, the associate school founded by George Balanchine, where he photographed classrooms, students, and faculty.
Biographical/historical: Born in Atlanta in 1918, Frederick Melton came to Manhattan in 1939 where he worked in a variety of creative media, the most successful being silk-screen printing. In the late 1940s, Melton became acquainted with New York City Ballet co-founders Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine through personal connections at informal salons he hosted with his then partner Wilbur "Billy" Pippin. This led Kirstein and Balanchine to invite him to photograph early productions including The Cage, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker, among many more. Melton continued to photograph New York City Ballet until the mid-1950s. In the early 1960s, Melton permanently departed from the New York City art world; he then spent time living in Puerto Rico and Florida until his death in 1992.
Content: The Frederick Melton photographs date from 1949 to 1954 and are comprised of negatives and contact prints. The series are arranged into sections, the first by Productions; Individuals; and Designs. The second series is arranged by Classroom and Action Shots; and Faculty. The files are arranged alphabetically. Melton photographed nearly every facet of the New York City Ballet` including its most well-known productions, intimate backstage moments, and artists who designed costumes and sets for several ballets. He also focused on the School of American Ballet, the associate school of New York City Ballet, where he photographed classrooms, students, faculty. The collection is arranged into two series, New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet.