The collection consists of over 1,520,000 images, black and white and color, on contact sheets with corresponding negatives (mostly 35 mm and 120), transparencies, slides, and prints taken by Martha Swope from circa 1955-2002 (bulk dates 1957-1994). There are also some programs and clippings filed with the images, often illustrating where the image was published or used. It documents Swope's career photographing theater productions, dance companies, such as American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham Dance Company, and New York City Ballet, opera productions, music groups, circus, film, television, individual performers, and performing arts-related personalities.
Content: Series I: Negatives, ca. 1955-2002 and n.d. (540 boxes). Sub-series: Theater, 1957-2002; Theater related, 1968-1993; Circus [circa 1960s]-1990; Movies and television, 1966-1992; Opera, 1964-1994; Other music, 1960-1994; Dance, circa 1955-1994 and undated; People, 1958-1994; Misc., 1958-1979 and undated. Series II: Large negatives, 1958-1994 and undated (7 boxes). Sub-series: Color, 1958-1994 and undated; Black and white, 1959-1998 and undated. Series III: Prints, 1957-1994 and undated (45 boxes). Sub-series: Theater, 1966-1994; Dance, 1957-1998 and undated; People - 1969-1993. Series IV: Slides, 1964-1994 and undated (198 boxes). Sub-series: Theater, 1967-1994 and undated; Theater-related, 1981-1993; Circus, 1986-1990; Movies and television, 1977-1987; Opera and other music, 1977-1994; Dance, 1960-1994 and undated; People and miscellaneous, 1964-1993 and undated. Series V: Exhibition prints, 1957-circa 1993 (4 boxes). Sub-series: Theater, 1967-circa 1993; Television, 1979-1980; Dance, 1957-1978; People, 1959-1978. Series VI: Digitized images, 1957-1994 (156 boxes).
Biographical/historical: Internationally acclaimed performing arts photographer Martha Swope was born in Waco, Texas, and is a graduate of Baylor University. She came to New York to attend the School of American Ballet. Swope's career as the performance photographer of record began when her classmate, Jerome Robbins, asked her to photograph rehearsals of the show on which he was working, West Side Story, in 1957. Although self-taught, for almost four decades (circa 1957-circa 1994), she created iconic images of theater and dance that communicated the essence and artistry of the performer and the work. Swope lives in New York City.
Extent: 950 boxes (399 lin. ft.) : some col. ; 51 x 61 cm. or smaller.