Jack Mitchell (photographer)

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Jack Mitchell
Jack Mitchell.jpg
Self portrait, Jack Mitchell
Born (1925-09-13)September 13, 1925
Key West, Florida, U.S.
Died November 7, 2013(2013-11-07) (aged 88)
New Smyrna Beach, Florida, U.S.
Spouse(s) Robert Pavlik
Website Jack Mitchell Archives

Jack Mitchell (September 13, 1925 – November 7, 2013) was an American photographer and author best known for his photographs of American artists, dancers, film and theatre performers, musicians and writers.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Mitchell was born in Key West, Florida, in 1925;[3] his family moved to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in 1932. He started photography at eleven, as the darkroom assistant to his sister. He then moved on to taking his own photographs, and was soon contributing photographs to the Daytona News Journal and New Smyrna Beach News.[4] He earned his living from photography since he was fifteen, when his first nationally published photograph, a portrait of his oil painting instructor, appeared in The Complete Photographer.

In 1950, four years after completion of duty as a public relations photographer for the U.S. Army in Florence and Venice, Mitchell moved from Florida to New York City. The dancer and choreographer Ted Shawn suggested that he concentrate on photographing dance and dancers. The recommendation proved fortuitous as that work provided an avenue to his later success photographing creative and performing artists of all disciplines.


From 1960 to 1970, Mitchell was the official photographer for the American Ballet Theatre, taking all the photographs for their souvenir program books. He also photographed the Boston Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Pennsylvania Ballet, Houston Ballet, the Martha Graham Dance Company, New York City Ballet and the Paul Taylor Dance Company.[4] He has photographed most of the world's leading dance companies for The New York Times and for Dance Magazine.

Mitchell is possibly best known for his numerous special assignment photographs for the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times from 1970 to 1995. When he closed his New York studio on December 17, 1995, The Times published a full-page illustrated article about his work and career. Within it, Annette Grant wrote:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono[edit]

Cover of the December 1980 People. Photo by Jack Mitchell

Mitchell's portrait of musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono was used on the cover of the December 1980 Lennon Memorial edition of People. The photo was taken in Mitchell's home studio and first published on November 9, 1980, a month before Lennon was killed.[6] John Yau commented:

Twelve of Mitchell's photographs of Lennon and Ono appear in Ono's book John Lennon: Summer of 1980.[n 1]


In the 1960s, Mitchell published the photobooks American Dance Portfolio[n 2] and, for younger readers, Dance Scene U.S.A.: America's Greatest Ballet and Modern Dance Companies in Photographs.[n 3]

Mitchell is the author of Icons and Idols: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960–1995,[n 4][8][9] which has been called “a stunning exhibition of 137 black and white photographs featuring icons of American culture”.[10][n 5]

Mitchell's book on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is published as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Jack Mitchell Photographs.[n 6]

Permanent collections[edit]

In 2008, the Smithsonian Institution announced that Mitchell had donated to it "54 large-format photographs of painters and sculptors taken in New York City between 1966 and 1977"; John W. Smith, director of the Archives of American Art, commented that “Jack’s images greatly enhance our already important holdings of artist’s portraits and we look forward to sharing these images with scholars and researchers.”[11]

The Baltimore Museum of Art owns a number of Mitchell's portraits.[4]

Mitchell had a long-standing relationship with the Atlantic Center for the Arts, located in his hometown of New Smyrna Beach. The Jack Mitchell Portrait Gallery displays Mitchell's photographic portraits of ACA Master Artists from 1982–2004. Mitchell himself was an ACA Master Artist in 1983. Mitchell also served on ACA’s National Council advisory board from 1993 to 2006.[12]

Documentary film on Mitchell's life and work[edit]

Craig Highberger's documentary on Mitchell's life and work, Jack Mitchell: My Life Is Black And White, shows hundreds of Mitchell's photographs and includes interviews with many of his subjects, including Edward Albee, Clive Barnes, Merce Cunningham, Patti LuPone and Ned Rorem.[13][14]

Personal life[edit]

Mitchell credits much of his success as a photographer to his fifty-two-year life and business partnership with Robert Pavlik, who died in 2009:


After a forty-five-year career in New York City, Mitchell retired to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Until his death, he continued to produce black and white exhibition prints[15] from his negative files and worked on another book of his fifty-five years of dance photography.

On November 7, 2013, at the age of eighty-eight, Mitchell died at his home in New Smyrna Beach.[16]



  1. ^ New York: Putnam, 1983 (ISBN 0399508430); London: Chatto & Windus, 1984 (ISBN 0701139315). See Bill Jay, "Jack Mitchell: Photographer of Dance" (PDF), Bill Jay's website; and "Bibliography: John Lennon", AIU: A Yoko Ono website.
  2. ^ New York: Dodd, Mead, 1964.
  3. ^ Cleveland: World Publishing, 1967. With text by Clive Barnes.
  4. ^ New York: Amphoto, 1998. ISBN 0817440259.
  5. ^ For other reviews, see Victoria Donohoe, "It looks like history, but it's art", The Philadelphia Inquirer August 13, 2006 (on Jack Mitchell's website); and Melissa Pracht, "Jack Mitchell: Uberphotographer", The St. Augustine Record October 8, 2004.
  6. ^ Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1993. ISBN 0836245083.


  1. ^ Mary Thomas, "Photographer's images catch the stars" at the Wayback Machine (archived December 12, 2005), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 29, 2005.
  2. ^ "International 'Idols'", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 3, 2005. Retrieved March 10, 2012.[dead link]
  3. ^ John Yau, "Jack Mitchell: An Introduction"; appearing within the web page "Jack Mitchell: Icons & Idols, A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960–1995" at the Wayback Machine (archived September 6, 2008), Atlantic Center for the Arts. Retrieved by the Wayback Machine on September 6, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Bill Jay, "Jack Mitchell, photographer of dance" (PDF). Bill Jay's website.
  5. ^ Annette Grant, "He Was a Camera: A Photographer's Farewell", The New York Times, December 17, 1995. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
  6. ^ Jack Mitchell, "A Final Record", The New York Times. December 8, 2005. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  7. ^ Philip E. Bishop, "A Choreographer's World in Still Life and Reel Time Jack Mitchell", Orlando Sentinel, August 31, 1997. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  8. ^ "Icons & Idols: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Arts, 1960–1995", Delaware Art Museum, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  9. ^ "Icons & Idols: Jack Mitchell, A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960–1995", University of Richmond Museums, 2006. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  10. ^ "Jack Mitchell: Icons & Idols, A Photographer's Chronicle of the Arts, 1960–1995" at the Wayback Machine (archived September 6, 2008), Atlantic Center for the Arts. Retrieved by the Wayback Machine on September 6, 2008.
  11. ^ "Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Acquires Collection of Jack Mitchell Vintage Photographs", Smithsonian Institution, August 29, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  12. ^ "Jack Mitchell: A Celebration of Life and Legacy," Atlantic Center for the Arts website (Dec. 15, 2013).
  13. ^ Nathan Southern (Rovi Corporation), "Jack Mitchell: My Life Is Black and White (2006)", The New York Times 2006. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Jack Mitchell: My Life is Black and White DVD", Craig B. Highberger's website. 2006. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  15. ^ "Photographer Jack Mitchell to Speak at New Smyrna Beach Library", Volusia County, Florida, March 1, 2012. Available here within highbeam.com (but behind a paywall).
  16. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Jack Mitchell, Photographer of the Arts, Dies at 88," New York Times (Nov. 10, 2013).

External links[edit]