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.