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The Real Story Behind a Historic Photograph.

In 1968, I took a group photograph for The New York Times showing modern dance icon Martha Graham surrounded by other modern dance choreographers Erick Hawkins, Merce Cunningham, Jose Limon, Yvonne Rainer, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp and Don Redlich.

Because of the high-profile subjects in the photograph, this image now has historic relevance. It has been erroneously written about several times, most recently in my friend Charles Reinhart's great piece, "Paul Taylor: A 70th Birthday Remembrance," in July's Dance Magazine. The errors, I think, were innocently caused by the prism of memory bending facts. It was thirty-two years ago!

For the record, this is the real story of the taking of that photograph on the overcast afternoon of September 12, 1968, in the patio-garden of Martha Graham's East Side Manhattan studio. Her studio was used as the site for photography because Miss Graham refused to go anywhere else for it. All the choreographers invited came except Anna Sokolow, who refused to come to the Graham studio. According to Reinhart, Meredith Monk was in the picture. She was not present.

Reinhart also wrote that Miss Graham "choreographed" the grouping. She did not. I arranged the choreographers for the picture by first seating Miss Graham in the center and placing the others around her. Working quickly with a wide-angle lens, I shot seven different groupings, rotating the choreographers around Miss Graham. I was in control, and as any photographer shooting for a major publication should, I did vertical, square and horizontal compositions to facilitate page layout.

It was a tense picture session, with little or no speaking among the subjects. Everyone seemed aware of their present or future importance and the historic significance of being photographed together. The shoot was brief, not especially convivial, and no one lingered after.

The photograph was selected by legendary editor Seymour Peck and appeared in the Sunday New York Times on October 20, 1968, with the following caption: "Festival of Dance--For the first time in history, modern dance will have a full season of performances, made possible by a Ford Foundation Grant. The series, presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Theater 1969, offers programs by twelve leading companies. Some of the choreographers participating are, in the foreground, Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham and Jose Limon and, in the back row, Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Paul Taylor, Yvonne Rainer and Don Redlich. Miss Graham and her company lead off the season this Tuesday at the Academy."

I am still happy that I got that assignment!

Jack Mitchell, a longtime contributor to Dance Magazine, recalled his distinguished career in his 1998 book Icons & Idols: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960-1995 (Amphoto Art).
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Title Annotation:Martha Graham and other choreographers in New York Times, October 20, 1968
Author:MITCHELL, JACK
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:446
Previous Article:Back to the Basics.
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