Dance from the Archive.
Not long after the “The School’s” 50th Anniversary get-together one of the participants, Deanna Watson contacted me to see A/ whether the photos of her she saw displayed were mine and, B/ did I have any more?
Answering “No” and “Yes,” I invited Deanna to view the files I had but as the majority of the early work had never been “proofed” it could only be viewed from the original negatives, which is difficult particularly for anyone not used to reading B&W negatives.
Then a couple more contacts followed also enquiring about their time at The School and at the launch of Maggie Scott’s biography, writer Michelle Potter evinced sufficient interest in this archive, as did some other notable alumnae present to warrant scanning all the work and making it available for those interested in viewing it.
A Little History.
One night on a tram in Melbourne a dancer on his way home after a performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre was juggling with a number of thoughts. He was bored. He was not doing much during the day, the odd extra class wasn’t sufficient stimulation and when was his father going to appreciate that dancing and performing really was a job?
Musing on how he had taken to photography whilst on tour and that he had even managed to sell some images for publication, it then struck him. Why not a pictorial book on the dancers experience? Perhaps that could explain visually the intensity of the process and the work and concentration required?
But where was the actual subject? Musical Theatre drew its dance cohort from all over; it had to be ballet because ballet was that single dedicated form that could be examined in detail. But where was there sufficient ballet for such a project?
The next night before the performance he asked one of the best of the female dancers knowing she had had School training, where it was located and who was the director and the following day rang up and made an appointment to visit.
Margaret Scott gave him permission to attend classes and take photographs with the admonition, “No flash and stay in one spot!”
After two weeks he formally applied to attempt the book, which was granted and so began an almost daily process of shooting rolls of film, performing at night, going home to process the days shoot and print some of the previous days work.
Going on tour meant taking all the work with him and trying to sort it into a coherent form.
Eventually he left performing. The touring meant he knew he’d not be able to concentrate on the project and he started work with a photography firm.
There were a couple of applications over this time for publication that met with, “Ballet books don’t sell.”
The project had extended to a number of years and it was expensive and it slowed and then stopped.
Some eighteen years later in front of a class of Yr 12 photography students attempting to motivate the duller of them to think about what subject matter they could choose he said, “Look, it doesn’t matter what you shoot as long as you’re engaged. It will have meaning if you apply thought to it. For instance, years ago I took photos of all these dancers in training, some of whom are now world famous…it’s possibly one of the most complete records of a ballet school ever done. It’s real meaning, is its time scale ….”
He left the classroom and in his office rang The School and some days later after meeting with Gailene Stock received permission to return and continue. He photographed till Gailene left and went to head Royal Ballet School.
It is a record over time, of a time.
It is also, as Deanna pointed out, about those who didn’t become “world famous,” too; those who made up the bulk of the classes and were the dynamic of the classes and what the place was.
And, it’s been a privilege.
Thanks, Deanna for the opening title.
As the work was originally intended for publication it went through a number of sortings and revisions with the result that much of it became mixed and lost its initial order. There are some proof sheets that now show widely separate times and place of shooting and only later sheets remained intact and were dated from the time of shooting. Where this is the case I have titled that proof with its details.
If anyone viewing the archive knows of details/dates they would like to add, please feel free to contact and it will be added, if possible.
I have kept as much as possible to the original numbering on the neg sheets but there will be gaps.
Some marks or stains will be evident on some sheets but I can happily report that this is not on the negs, although some early material is showing some physical deterioration that will require digital remediation if a full scan is required.
There are 591 rolls of film in this archive.
Initially I intended to post the Proof-Sheets to this blog but their size as a readable item online and the sheer number has made that idea unviable, therefore I will not be able to post the proofs here. Instead, I will commit all the proofs to disk and if anyone would like to look through them they can order one at a nominal cost ($20.00 including postage)
Please Note: this archive is for private use only and is not meant for any form of publication.
Scans of individual images can also be ordered and will be provided on disk, finished and suitably post-processed in JPEG format at 300 DPI and around 20 MB per image.
Image size for each will be approximately equivalent to 500mm X 350mm for 35mm and 500mmX 500mm for medium format.
Please note, the mixture of files has meant in some cases there will be two of the same number in a proof sheet.
Working times for each image with scan and full post process, averages 30 - 45 minutes.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to order the archive disk.