The Victoria and Albert Museum has acquired the archive of theatre photographer Ivan Kyncl, who, during two decades of working in the UK, captured figures including Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw and Harold Pinter.
He was once described by the director Terry Hands as “the Cartier-Bresson of theatre photographers” because of his distinctive style.
Kyncl, who died in 2004, photographed productions across the country from the National Theatre and London’s Royal Court to Glyndebourne, Chichester Festival Theatre and Sheffield Crucible.
He arrived in the UK as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia in 1980, having made a name for himself photographing politically sensitive plays in secret in Prague and working with the Czech dissident playwright and later president Vaclav Havel.
Among his first work in the UK was a commission by Pinter, and he earned his first significant job with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985 under Hands’ tenure.
Kyncl went on to photograph British theatre, opera and musicals until his death in 2004 and became known for bringing an experimental approach to theatre photography.
His archive, including 100,000 negatives and several prints, has now been acquired by the V&A in London, which will show an exhibition of his work. The display, called Ivan Kyncl: In the Minute, will feature his photographs of 60 productions.
The archive will form part of the V&A’s National Collection of Performing Arts, alongside those of Vivien Leigh, Peter Brook and London’s Royal Court.
Simon Sladen, senior curator of modern and contemporary performance at the V&A, said: “Ivan Kyncl’s photography acts as a remarkable chronicle of the British stage from the 1980s to the 2000s. Not only does it chart the evolution of theatre, it captures the very essence, atmosphere and emotion of a production, permitting us access long after the final curtain. The V&A is a fitting home for Kyncl’s theatrical archive.”