Broadway Photographer Martha Swope Dies

Tony Award winning Broadway and dance photographer Martha Swope died as a result of Parkinson’s Disease January 12 in New York City at the age of 88.

Along with her Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater, Swope also received a lifetime achievement award from the League of Professional Theater Women.

In the course of her career, Swope photographed over 800 productions and was the official photographer for the New York City Ballet.

Her photo subjects include Jerome Robbins, Patti LuPone, Meryl Streep, Frank Langella, Liza Minnelli, George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Gelsey Kirkland, John Travolta, Bernadette Peters, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

She was born Martha Joan Swope on February 22, 1928 in Tyler, Texas. Born on George Washington’s birthday, Swope once stated that she was named for Martha Washington.

Even as a child, Swope always carried around a camera, but her passion was dance. She went to the School of American Ballet in New York City but instead met Jerome Robbins and a life long photography career was born. Long before the days of digital photography, it was not uncommon for Swope to shoot over 300 photographs of a single production; choosing only the best to advance beyond the darkroom.

And long before the days of photoshop, she was a master at retouching, Swope painstakingly scratched of wrinkles one at a time on negatives using a razor blade.

When she retired, Swope had amassed over a million photographs which were all donated to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, along with all of her files, contact sheets, and negatives.

Never married, she is survived by nieces, a nephew and a great niece.


On Broadway, Swope shot photographs for:
“Damn Yankees”
“White Liars & Black Comedy”
“Kiss of Spider Woman”
“Anna Christie”
“The Show Off”
“The Real Inspector Hound and The Fifteen Minute Hamlet”
“Guys and Dolls”
“Catskills on Broadway”
“Our Country’s Good”
“Los in Yonkers”
“Truly Blessed”
“Miss Margarida’s Way”
”City of Angels”
“Grand Hotel”
“Meet Me in St. Louis”
“Orphes Descending”
“Chu Chem”
“Lend Me a Tenor”
“Jerome Robbins’ Broadway”
“Cafe Crown”
“Black and Blue”
“Legs Diamond”
“Ain’t Misbehavin’”
“The Gospel at Colonus”
“Serious Money”
“Into the Woods”
“Late Nite Comic”
“Sleight of Hand”
“A Month of Sundays”
“The Musical Comedy Murders”
“Blithe Spirit”
“Starlight Express”
“Broadway Bound”
“Cuba & His Teddy Bear”
“Arsenic and Old Lace”
“Long Day’s Jorney into Night”
“Social Security”
“Big Deal”
“Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood”
“Wind in the Willows”
“Jerry’s Girls”
“Hay Fever”
“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
“The Boys of Winter”
“I’m Not Rappaport”
“The Iceman Cometh”
“The Odd Couple”
“Aren’t We All?”
“Big River
“Leader of the Pack”
“Biloxi Blues”
“Joe Egg”
“Pack of Lies”
“Harrigan ‘n Hart”
“Dancing in the End Zone”
“Home Front”
“The Three Musketeers”
“Alone Together”
“Cyrano de Bergerac”
“Much Ado About Nothing”
“The Babe”
“End of the World”
“Beethoven’s Tenth”
“Shirley MacLaine on Broadway”
“The Human Comedy”
“Open Admissions”
“The Real Thing”
“Noises Off”
“The Corn is Green”
“La Cage aux Folles”
“Private Lives”
“Total Abandon”
“Teaneck Tanzi: The Venus”
“The Man Who Had Three Arms”
“Brighton Beach Memoirs”
“Marcel Marceau on Broadway”
“A View from the Bridge”
“Alice in Wonderland”
“Almost an Eagle”
“A Doll’s Life”
“Your Arms Too Short to Box with God”
“Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?”
“MASTER HAROLD”…and the Boys
“Little Johnny Jones”
“The World of Sholom Aleichem”
“Special Occasions”
“Joseph andhte Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
“Little Me”
“The Little Prince and the Aviator”
“Grown Up”
“The First”
“Merrily We Roll Along”
“Mass Appeal”
“Oh, Brother!”
“Ned and Jack”
“Crimes of the Heart”
“Einstein and the Polar Bear”
“My Fair Lady”
“The Supporting Cast”
“Wally’s Cafe”
Lena Horne: “The Lady and Her Music”
“It Had to Be You”
“The Moony Shapiro Songbook”
“Woman of the Year”
“Sophisticated Ladies”
“The Pirates of Penzance”
“Onward Victorica”
“Perfectly Frank”
“Lunch Hour”
“Fifth of July”
“Your Arms too Short to Box with God” – Revival
“A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine”
“Morning’s at Seven”
“I Ought to Be in Pictures”
“Horowitz and Mrs. Washington”
“Children of a Lesser God”
“Whose Life is it Anyway?” – Revival
“West Side Story” – Revival
“The Lady from Dubuque”
“Last Licks”
“Romantic Comedy”
“Devour the Snow”
“Once a Catholic”
“Peter Pan”
“But Never Jam Today”
“I Remember Mama”
“Whose Life is it Anyway?”
“Faith Healer”
“They’re Playing Our Song”
“Monteith & Rand”
“A Broadway Musical”
“Man an Superman”
“Gorey Stories”
“The Crucifer of Blood”
“Once Upon a Lifetime”
“The American Dance Machine”
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” – original
“The Mighty Gents”
“Diversions and Delights”
“A History of the American Film”
“On the Twentieth Century”
“Saint Joan”
“Chapter Two”
“The Merchant”
“The Importance of Being Earnest”
“Happy End”
“I Love My Wife”
“Ladies at the Alamo”
“Romeo and Juliet”
“A Party with Betty Comden & Adolph Green”
“The Night of the Iguana”
“Don’t Step on My Olive Branch”
“Oh! Calcutta!”
“I Have a Dream”
“Knock Knock”
“A Chorus Line”
“Same Time, Next Year”
“The Wiz”
“Where’s Charley?”
“In Praise of Love”
“The National Health”
“Scapino” – revival
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
“My Fat Friend”
“Veronica’s Room”
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
“The Merchant of Venice”
“The Plough and the Stars”
“The Sunshine Boys”
“Four on a Garden”
“Hay Fever”

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