Dancing Queens: Lost Images from a Grand Ball

The Inge Morath Foundation / Magnum Photos
The Inge Morath Foundation / Magnum Photos
A participant rehearses for a dance titled, "Fire Vanquished by Snow."

In the winter of 1955, Parisian high society buzzed in anticipation of a dance on ice to be performed by members of the royal houses of Europe. Inge Morath, 32 at the time, and a newly minted member of the Magnum photo agency, was assigned to cover the charity event, going behind the scenes to document the glamorous participants as they rehearsed for the gala evening. She shot 14 rolls in total, and the material was processed and distributed through the Magnum network, but never found its way into print.

In those days, the agency routinely distributed material shot on spec to a roster of sub-agents and publications, with the understanding that the prints would be returned. In many cases, that never happened; the prints remained in far-away files or gathered dust on the shelves of the recipients. Now, in an effort to reclaim the work, the Magnum Foundation, in partnership with the art magazine Esopus, has initiated a project to seek out that lost material and other works made by its photographers that never found its way into public view. Called “Analog Recovery,” the project is being edited by John Jacob, who is also the director of Morath’s estate. The goal, Jacob says, is to reintroduce a portfolio by a Magnum photographer twice a year. Morath’s Bal d’Hiver, is the first in the series.

Jacob had come across the Bal d’Hiver photos while doing research for another project about Magnum and the world of fashion. To assemble the piece, he used the marks that Morath herself had left on the contact sheets. “She really knew what she was doing with her editing,” he says. “I rarely needed to go beyond what she had selected.” How fitting, then, for the Esopus magazine feature on the photos to honor her astute eye—the issue includes a detachable reproduction of one of the 14 contact sheets, with Morath’s marks still visible.

A launch party for the issue, along with a small exhibit of the photographs will be held on Nov. 2 at Esopus Space in New York at 6 p.m. Select photos from the project will also be sold as prints by the online gallery 20×200, with proceeds benefitting the Magnum Foundation.

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