August 11, 2020

Digital Collections: National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Alvin Ailey Photography Collection is Now Available to the Public Online, More Than 10,000 Photos Available

From the National Museum of African American History:

Ahead of World AIDS Day and the 30th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s death (Dec. 1), the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is making available the collection of more than 10,000 photographs chronicling the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1961 to 1994. The Jack Mitchell Photography of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Collection includes 8,288 black-and-white negatives, 2,106 color slides and transparencies, and 339 black-and-white prints depicting private photo sessions, repertory by Alvin Ailey and a wide range of choreographers and iconic solo performers.

Jack Mitchell’s collection documents the dance company’s evolution while capturing the true idiosyncrasies and physicality of movement through still images. The photography showcases the innovative performances and groundbreaking artistry of Ailey, who shined a spotlight on the contributions and experiences of the African American heritage that inspired the racially diverse performances he presented that forever changed American dance and culture.

Acquired in 2013, the entire digitized photography collection has been recently made available to the public online via the Smithsonian’s Online Virtual Archives. The collection is jointly owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

Jack Mitchell’s collection documents the dance company’s evolution while capturing the true idiosyncrasies and physicality of movement through still images. The photography showcases the innovative performances and groundbreaking artistry of Ailey, who shined a spotlight on the contributions and experiences of the African American heritage that inspired the racially diverse performances he presented that forever changed American dance and culture.

Acquired in 2013, the entire digitized photography collection has been recently made available to the public online via the Smithsonian’s Online Virtual Archives. The collection is jointly owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

Portrait of Alvin Ailey with Judith Jamison, Linda Kent and Dudley Williams in dance studio. Photography by Jack Mitchell © Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation Inc. and Smithsonian Institution, All rights reserved.

Mitchell’s photography vividly illustrates the evolution of Ailey’s principal dancers, notable performances and Ailey himself. The collection contains photographs of over 80 choreographed performances by Ailey, including his debut piece “Blues Suite” along with “The River” and “Revelations,” one of Ailey’s most popular and critically acclaimed pieces that tells the African American story from slavery to freedom and remains one the most beloved works of modern dance, acclaimed as a must-see and applauded by audiences around the world. The collection also features portraits of Judith Jamison, who was Ailey’s muse, most notably for the tour-de-force solo “Cry,” and who he entrusted to become artistic director before his death. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s other earliest and most revered dancers are featured, including Dudley Williams, Sylvia Waters, Masazumi Chaya and Donna Wood.

Direct to The Jack Mitchell Photography of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Collection

Learn More About the Collection and Jack Mitchell in the Complete Announcement

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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