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Doris Ulmann

Vintage Photographs

June–August 2017

Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Woman in bonnet), ​1928–1934. Seated woman in checkered dress and large bonnet with arms crossed
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Fiddler), ​1928–1934. Seated man with pipe in his mouth, positioned to play the fiddle held against his left shoulder.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Guitar player), ​1928–1934. Seated man holding the neck of a guitar in both hands. His face is slightly blurred with motion.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Soothsayer), ​1928–1934. Two seated figures, the front-left figure is out of focus and covered in a shawl and headscarves, holding a book. The man on the right looks down at the book.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Miner), ​1928–1934. Portrait of a man wearing a hat and handkerchief looking off to the right of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Appalachian woman), ​1928–1934. Woman in a checkered dress seated at a table and looking to the camera. One hand is in her lap, the other rests on the table by a drinking glass.
Doris Ulmann, New England (Apple picker), ​1928–1934. Older bearded man in a hat and overalls stands amongst the branches of an apple tree.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Farmer holding oxen yoke), ​1928–1934. Older bearded man in a hat standing against a wooden wall and suspenders holding a wooden rod with two handles.
Doris Ulmann, Park Fisher, Brasstown, N.C. (Wood carver), 1928–1934. Seated man in an apron smiling off to the right of the frame with one hand held to his face and the other resting on a carved wooden object in front of him.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Cobbler), ​1928–1934. Seated man in a hat and apron with hands in his lap holding a shoe.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Appalachian man), ​1928–1934. Older bearded man in suspenders, seated and holding a book in his lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Farmer), 1928–1934. Older man in suspenders and straw hat seated on a wooden chair, holding a cane,
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Religious man), ​1928–1934. Seated man in hat and shawl with hands in lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Horse handler), ​1928–1934. Man stands in a dark stable holding a horse's saddle.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Fisherman),  ​1928–1934. Man seated on the bow of a small fishing boat holding a basket and fish.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African American farmhand), 1928–1934. Seated man in white shirt looking to the left of the frame with hands in lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Cook), ​1928–1934. Man in white shirt, black tie, and white hat looking to the right of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Woman in kerchief), ​1928–1934. Seated woman in a headscarf with arms in lap looking to the left of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Basket weaver), 1928–1934. Seated woman weaving a basket in her lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Quilt maker), 1928–1934. Older woman with eyes cast down to a quilt in her lap, seated on a wooden chair.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled, ​1928–1934. Woman with dark hair in a polka-dot dress standing at a table with hands resting on metal containers.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Preacher), ​1928–1934. Dark exposure of a man in robes seated on a chair with a pointed back.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African American girl), ​1928–1934. Young girl seated outdoors with arms folded in her lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Church choir), ​1928–1934. Group of people in white robes standing in an empty room.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African American man), ​1928–1934. Dimly lit man seated outdoors wears a white shirt and dark jacket and looks to the camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Vegetable seller), ​1928–1934. Woman in a hat and checkered skirt stands holding vegetables and looking to the left of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Farmer), ​1928–1934. Man seated outdoors among tall grass in the left of the frame looking slightly to the right of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Farmhand), ​1928–1934. Man in hat and apron seated outdoors between two tree trunks, looking slightly to the left of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African American worker), ​1917. Soft-focus man seated in the right of the frame, looking to the right of the frame, hands clasped in front of him holding what looks like a roll of paper.
Doris Ulmann, James Weldon Johnson, ​c. 1925. Man in a three-piece suit seated behind a desk holding a pen to paper and looking to the left of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (African American nun), ​1928–1934. Woman stands against an ivy wall, looking to camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Preacher), ​1928–1934. Bearded man in black clothing holds open a book in his lap and looks to the camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Gentleman farmer), ​1928–1934. Seated man in white shirt and suspenders holds hat in his lap and looks to the camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Shaker lady), ​1928–1934. Seated woman in a bonnet and black clothing holds open a small book in her lap, looking slightly to the right of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, The Song in the Wood (Man playing dulcimer), ​1928–1934. Soft-focus seated man with both hands on the instrument in his lap.
Doris Ulmann, Mr. Solomon Halcolm, most important folk singer living, ​July 1932. Man seated outdoors in light clothing and suspenders with hands in his lap.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (War veteran), ​1928–1934. Seated man holding crutches in front of him with his right hand looks to the right of the frame.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Farmer), 1928–1934. Head-and-shoulders portrait of man in straw hat and striped overalls looking to camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled (Gentleman), ​1928–1934. Bearded man seated in a wooden chair holding paper in his lap and looking to camera.
Doris Ulmann, Untitled, ​c. 1920. Detail of a group of docked sailboats.
Doris Ulmann, Boats, Gloucester, Mass., ​c. 1920. Detail of three rowboats, in the water in partial view: one in the foreground emerging from the right, two in the background emerging from the left.
Doris Ulmann, Rowboat, Gloucester, Mass., ​c. 1920. Rowboat in a shed amongst baskets, rope, and wooden beams.

Press Release

Keith de Lellis Gallery presents the work of Pictorialist photographer Doris Ulmann (American, 1882-1934) for its summer exhibition at 1045 Madison Avenue.

 

A graduate of the Clarence White School of Photography and one of the earliest social documentary photographers, Ulmann began her career in New York, creating portraits of elite writers, artists, and intellectuals in her Park Avenue apartment. The artist captured both her humble and prominent subjects alike with great care and dignity. Ulmann sought out "A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power" in her portraiture (Bookman 72).

 

Her inclination towards those who have "lived intensely" explains her dedication to documenting the people of rural Appalachia and the African American and Gullah communities of the Deep South, waning cultures of hardworking families bound by traditional values. The photographer approached folk artists, farmers, fishermen, and musicians to authentically capture their respective crafts. Although she was an upper-class New Yorker, she approached these humble communities with the respect and curiosity of an ethnographer.

Ulmann's soft-focus platinum prints soothe the hardened features of her subjects, directing the viewer's attention to their dignified and proud bearings. Her work blurs the lines between the documentarian and the fine art, combining her humanist background instilled by the Ethical Culture School with her Pictorialist training.

 

The soft natural light and rich shadows of Ulmann's scenes maintain a focus on the figure. The subjects' expressions are natural, pensive, and rarely is their gaze to the camera. They seem comfortable both in their environment and with the photographer.

 

This exhibition will be on view at the Keith de Lellis Gallery through August 3, 2017.