I live in a very unusual loft building in New York. A former factory, it’s a 103 years old and many of the current residents, who include an artist, a jazz musician, a toy maker, and, until recently, a world-renowned photographer have been here for more than 30 years. It’s a very supportive place—we all socialize and look out for each other—and because of that, the experience of living here is unique, almost like a bigger version of February House. The noted photographer, our good friend Roy Round, has just moved back to his native London after three decades in his loft, which also served as his studio.
Roy started his career during the Second World War as an aerial reconnaissance photographer with the RAF in Egypt . (Bored to tears in the desert, he became a champion boxer.) After the war he returned to London as an apprentice photographer with Peter Clark Studios. From there he joined a small studio and within a couple of years became an active fashion photographer, working on the Paris collections twice a year and traveling abroad frequently on assignment for top magazines. He also became accomplished at celebrity portraiture, photographing Anna Magnani, Paul Bowles, Cecil Beaton, and Kim Novak among many others.
One of the best parts of knowing Roy is that he has the most extraordinary stories about many of the greats of the 20th century. If a name like Judy Garland comes up in conversation he’ll say, “Did I ever tell you about the time we got drunk together at Sybil Burton’s nightclub?” Well, no, but please tell me more. He was very close to fellow photographer Tony Armstrong Jones who sat him down and said, “It’s hitting the press tomorrow that I am marrying Princess Margaret.” Roy didn’t even know they were seeing each other. Once in the 1960s, when he had been detained on a long photo session, his wife asked, “Why are you so bloody late?” As you can imagine, his truthful reply, “I was having drinks with Raquel Welch,” did not go over well.
His wife was the English ballerina and ballet mistress, the late Georgina Parkinson, and it is through her and his extraordinary work first with London’s Royal Ballet and subsequently with American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, that Roy’s name will forever be most strongly linked to the world of dance.
Roy and Georgina moved to New York in 1980 at the behest of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who installed Georgina as a ballet mistress at ABT. (She had taught Baryshnikov and Leslie Brown a pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet for the 1977 film The Turning Point.) That’s when they moved into my building, and it’s in their studio loft among other locations that Roy photographed Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, Julie Kent, Ethan Stiefel, Gillian Murphy, Marcello Gomes, and many other ballet greats.
I am in awe of Roy’s artistic talent, but he is also the consummate dinner companion, and every time we get together I hear new stories. One night at a state performance Georgina was sitting next to some woman who asked her if she needed anything. “A glass of water would be wonderful, darling,” she answered, and the woman dutifully brought it to her. Later Georgina found out that her accommodating server was the Queen of Greece.
I know we’ll see Roy in London, but we will miss the daily contact and we’re hoping he learns to use email to continue to entertain us with his amusing stories. He currently has a great book out called Round About the Ballet published by Limelight Editions, which profiles dancers at both the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. And he is working on a new book that will be a retrospective of his career and include all those terrific anecdotes.