The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann

The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann

by Philip Walker Jacobs


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813121758
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 03/28/2001
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)

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The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was given this book as a gift and for a brief time it just sat on my coffee table (it really is a handsome enough volume to qualify for that purpose!) -- but I soon became drawn to Ulmann's fascinating biography and, of course, to the photographs themselves. Born in 1882 to an affluent German-Jewish family in New York, Ulmann found that her true calling was not as a successful doctor's wife but as a photographer of the poor and rural South. She photographed her subjects at work and at prayer and this book is full of her remarkable and insightful images. Philip W. Jacobs has done an amazing job of tracking down Ulmann's letters and archives -- a truly impressive piece of scholarship. I think both scholars and the general reader will find this book eye-opening and rich in scope and detail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In his important book, The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann, Philip Walker Jacobs brings renewed attention to the life of a substantial artist whose agenda was 'to create dignified and respectful photographic paintings' as well as to 'honor those who were often dishonored.' Doris Ulmann is easily in the league of photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, yet her work is much less known. A detailed examination of her background and influences is long overdue. Jacobs has organized hundreds of relevant personal letters and scattered references into a coherent framework which reveals Ulmann as a privileged but lonely woman who struggled with poor health throughout her relatively short life. Ulmann is highly regarded for her portraits of Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, H.L. Mencken, and others in New York's intellectual and art scene. However, she also completed a series documenting Appalachian and African-American subjects in the 20's and 30's. Her work in South Carolina with plantation workers and with the residents of the Southern Highlands in North Carolina is the cornerstone of her reputation today. Of particular interest here are documents which illuminate the often disturbing roles which musician and folklorist John Jacob Niles and South Carolina novelist Julia Peterkin played in her personal life and in the development of her art. Jacobs' biography also examines the roots of Ulmann's style in her study with Clarence White and in her admiration of the ground-breaking portraiture of Adamson and Hill. This extensively researched account also gives readers a basis for understanding the dignity and quiet sympathy which is present in her images. Some of the portraits are somehow tinged with sadness, and Ulmann's own story helps us to analyze why. The portraits of doctors and members of urban society reflect, perhaps, her longing to be accepted by them as a woman and as an artist. On the other hand, when her marriage broke up and her health began to fail, she discovered bonds with people of a different class and culture entirely. Ulmann created more than 10,000 images over a twenty-year period. A good sampling of those (about 70 sepia photographs) are contained here. Anyone who is interested in photographs of the Depression-era South, in portrait photography, or in the progress of American photography as an art form, should consider this book a must-have.