An exhibition at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford
February 11-March 7, 2020
Backstage at the ballet is a new exhibition by ballet dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones, who has been taking photographs for more than six decades and is one of Britain’s most significant post-war photo journalists. His ballet pictures strip away the gloss of the stage and reveal the emotional intensity and beauty of ballet in a different way.
Drawn from the archive of TopFoto and Colin Jones’s own collection, the exhibition features over fifty images, many of which have never been on public display before.
Taken while Jones was a dancer then photographer in the 1960s and again in the 1990s, the prints include Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, whom he danced alongside, as well as Ninette de Valois, Kenneth MacMillan, LynnSeymour and Tamara Rojo.
Associated with the exhibition is an illustrated presentation on February 11 by Jane Pritchard, curator of dance at the Victoria and Albert Museum, who will place Colin Jones’ photographs in the context of the work of his contemporaries.
After a working-class childhood in London’s East End, Colin Jones had the opportunity to train as a dancer in the early 1950s. He went on to join The Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1958, while running an errand for Margot Fonteyn, bought his first camera. He went on to be mentored by the renowned Hungarian-British photojournalist Michael Peto, who also taught him how to print his own images. By 1962, Jones was a photographer for The Observer.
Jones’s images from the period show his fellow dancers in class and at rehearsal, often unaware that they are being photographed. These intimate, behind-the-scenes images show them warming up, stretching, learning new choreography, resting and even knitting.
During the early 1960s Jones also captured images of the Kirov Ballet, at the time of Soviet-born Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West. He went on to become friends with the Russian, photographing him at work with Margot Fonteyn.
In the 1990s and now an established photojournalist, Jones photographed what is now Northern Ballet during classes; also going on tour with them to Hong Kong, and to Australia with English National Ballet for a Sunday Times commission.
Throughout his career, Jones has used a hand-held Leica or Nikon F with 35mm lens and minimal equipment; the techniques he developed in the 1960s were the same he used when taking his 1990s ballet images more than 30 years later.
Backstage at the Ballet: Photographs by Colin Jones from the 1960s and 1990s
The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford
February 11-March 7, 2020
For more details visit www.thenorthwall.com; or click here for more on Jane Pritchard’s presentation on February 11.