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Barbara Morgan (1901-1962), Martha Graham, El Penitente (Eric Hawkins as El Flagellante), 1940; Gelatin silver print (printed 1972), 18 5/8 x 14 3/8 in.; University Art Museum, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, Gift of Joan and Van Deren Coke

Barbara Morgan (1901-1962), Martha Graham, El Penitente (Eric Hawkins as El Flagellante), 1940; Gelatin silver print (printed 1972), 18 5/8 x 14 3/8 in.; University Art Museum, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, Gift of Joan and Van Deren Coke

This remarkable photograph of Eric Hawkins silhouetted against the sky is shaped by three complementary sensibilities that remain vitally significant in the history of modern dance: chorographer Martha Graham, her dancer/lover-husband Hawkins, and the photographer Barbara Morgan. Graham was inspired by pre-modern spiritualized worlds rooted in American folklore; Hawkins was a physically commanding dancer. Morgan thought photographs of stage performances an inadequate record of a dance. She needed to capture a timeless gesture through a reconceived moment, as she does here, to evoke the essence of the dance.