Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell created an astounding photographic legacy that The New York Times called “a pictorial history of the arts in the late 20th century,” and Jacob's Pillow played a major role in jumpstarting his career. Born and raised in Florida, he began taking photos professionally at sixteen, a job to which he returned after serving in World War II. But his work was largely confined to Florida until a chance encounter with Pillow founder Ted Shawn—who wintered near Mitchell's hometown of New Smyrna Beach—led to an invitation to spend the summer of 1950 at Jacob's Pillow. That experience resulted in Mitchell's move to New York City and set his career in motion. He spent several other summers at the Pillow during the 1950s and began photographing dance for The New York Times, Dance Magazine, and other publications. While continuing his dance work (notably with Alvin Ailey, which later resulted in a book), he increasingly became the “go-to” photographer for arts figures in all fields, including writers Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams, singers Beverly Sills and Leontyne Price, film icons Gloria Swanson and Alfred Hitchcock, sculptors Isamu Noguchi and Louise Nevelson, pop artist Andy Warhol and his entire stable of superstars, musicians Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, and scores of others. His portrait of Yoko Ono and John Lennon graced the cover of People magazine's best-selling memorial issue, and he captured other celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gloria Vanderbilt. He always continued shooting dance, with a long-running Dance Magazine affiliation that eventually encompassed more than 165 covers. Touchingly, he never forgot his debt to Shawn and Jacob's Pillow, and his photos were the subject of two different exhibits here while he also often contributed to numerous Gala auctions. For the Pillow's fifty-year retrospective of his dance photography in 2000, Mitchell personally made a number of exhibition prints which are part of our permanent collection, and he participated in a memorable PillowTalk that traced his entire career's remarkable trajectory. Still active after his 1996 retirement, Mitchell moved back to New Smyrna Beach, where he died in November 2013 at 88.
Related collection
Jack Mitchell Collection