Jack Mitchell (1925- 2013) was an acclaimed photographer who began chronicling the work of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1961. Alvin Ailey (1931- 1989), one of the most influential African American choreographers of modern dance, dedicated himself and his dance company to creating ballets that not only accelerated the careers of young African American dancers, but also stole the attention of national and international audiences in displaying the racial perspective of dance in the African American experience. This collection serves as Mitchell’s documentation of the dance company’s evolution while capturing the true idiosyncrasies and physicality of movement through still images. Through Alvin Ailey and Jack Mitchell’s partnership, they were able to collaborate and produce a unique production of art, fusing the meaning and movements of dance and the techniques of photography.
Subseries 1: Solo and Ensemble Images and Portraits contains 133 11” x 14” solo and ensemble prints, portraits, and duplicate prints taken in Jack Mitchell’s photography studio and onstage between 1961 and 1992, a handwritten letter from Alvin Ailey, dated March 24, 1975, and embedded digitized images of the prints.