A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Hello again, lovely readers! I’ve kept my promise and offer a 2nd blog post in as many days to cheer your hearts and minds. Or something like that. All this really means is that I’m finally getting myself to focus on writing a bit more – the result of realizing that much of my professional life will, in fact, consist of writing for specific deadlines. And even though such deadlines don’t always make me comfortable, they do ensure that I get my work finished. So, in an effort to develop good, creative habits, I am setting my own deadlines – and sticking to them!

So, to the topic at hand: photographs. I’ve always loved photographs – and have been particularly fascinated with dance photographs since I was a dancer myself. How to capture the movement and expression of a body in motion is a challenge that when conquered can be truly exquisite. Early in the summer I came across an article from the 1940s in the DNB Research Files debating the merits of dance photograph and how well it represents this ephemeral art form. The article mentioned several examples of photographs, such as the reproduction of a famous one of Martha Graham by Barbara Morgan pictured below.

Newspaper reproduction of a Barbara Morgan photograph of Martha Graham

The caption below the photo discusses capturing the “sheer beauty of movement.” What a beautiful sentiment – and wonderful goal – for dance photography.

Not all photographs important to the study and history of dance are of dancers, choreographers, and performances, though. Many of the photographs included in the DNB Photograph Collection are of lectures, demonstrations, and events related to the DNB and notation education. Others are from rehearsals and performances. Some include accompanying notation with action shots. And still others are head shots or portraits of significant figures. All of them tell a story. A few of my favorites (mostly of dancers) are below.

Alicia Markova from ‘Swan Lake’ or ‘The Dying Swan,’ 1954. Photograph by Jake Blake. Inscribed.

Ruth Currier and Jose Limon in Doris Humphrey’s ‘Day on Earth’

Portrait of Isadora Duncan in the Gardens of Bellevue, Paris in 1916

Rudolf von Laban discusses notation with his student Kurt Jooss

Handling and caring for photographs in an archival setting can be a delicate business in order to ensure the preservation of prints and negatives, both of which are present in this collection. To aid me in some creative conservation techniques, I had the good fortunate of knowing and contacting two experts – Jessi Steiner, the Conservation and Exhibition Technician at the Lilly Library (also my former supervisor, a photographer, and framer extraordinaire!), and Anne Young, the Rights and Reproduction Coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Not only does Anne have a degree in photographic preservation and collections management, but she also happens to be my sister! I was very lucky to have these knowledgeable and lovely ladies help me assess and address some conservation concerns – namely the separation of photographs from mat boards and plastic framing (to the right)

Plastic framing and tape removed for preservation

and the proper storage of negatives that were previously in glassine sleeves (to the left).

Negative in a glassine sleeve (later removed and placed in a handmade acid-free paper sleeve)

Both Jessi and Anne took time out of their busy days to read my emails, look at photos, confer on the phone, and brainstorm solutions. Thank you! With their invaluable assistance, I was able to carefully remove photographs from framing hazardous to their preservation and create inexpensive sleeves and interleaving from acid-free paper to protect the items. Because of that, Mary and I were able to complete the rehousing of the Photograph Collection in about two weeks!

DNB Photograph Collection rehoused

Tomorrow, an entire post about one of my favorite items from the Dance Notation Bureau’s collection. It’s gorgeous – you’ll love it! But, for now, good night!


*All photographs taken by Maureen Maryanski with the permission of the Dance Notation Bureau

This entry was posted in Dance, Dance Heritage Coalition, Dance Notation Bureau, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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