Martha Swope, famed photographer of some of the nation’s top dancers and actors, was born February 22, 1928, in Tyler, Texas.

A graduate of Baylor University and the American School of Ballet, Swope began her career as a dancer, but began taking amateur photos of rehearsals as early as in 1955. One day in 1957, her interest in photography blossomed when choreographer Jerome Robbins invited her to shoot a day of rehearsals for West Side Story. 

Swope soon became one of the most prolific photographers of Broadway theatre rehearsals, productions, and publicity shoots for almost 50 years, including A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, and Annie — to dance productions by the New York City Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Martha Graham Dance Company. 

Swope died of Parkinson’s disease January 12, 2017. In her photo above of Irene Sharaff and Lee Becker in rehearsals for West Side Story in 1957, she’s captured herself in the mirror as well.
The New York Public Library now displays a large digital collection from Swope's 1.5 million photographs. Few people have documented the arts so thoroughly. Click HERE to visit New York Public Library’s curated collection of her digital images.

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