Untitled [Portrait of Victorian Woman] by Doris Ulmann
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- Artwork Info
- About the Artist
- About this Photograph
Gelatin silver print mounted to period board
Signed, in pencil, au mount recto
Printed circa 1920
Doris Ulmann (American, 1882-1934): A New Yorker by birth, Doris Ulmann preserved the rural cultures of the southeastern United States through her photographs. She worked particularly in the “Southern Highlands” of the Appalachian Mountains, creating portraits of the residents. In 1933, she contributed photographs to “Roll, Jordan, Roll”, a book by novelist Julia Peterkin about the vanishing black culture, known as Gullah, of the South Carolina islands and coastal areas. In collaboration with musician, actor, and folklorist John Jacob Niles, she made what Niles called annual “folklore and photographic expeditions” to the Southern Highlands between 1928 and 1934.
Ulmann’s equipment was somewhat cumbersome and old-fashioned for her time. She most often used a 6½ x 8½ inch, tripod-mounted view camera, although the lightweight, hand-held camera was more prevalent, and she produced soft-focus platinum prints. The muted, warm tonality of the platinum image was a gentle complement to her respectful, sympathetic portrayals of subjects whose lives were different from her own.
Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum
This exquisite print displays Ullman’s unique talents on full display. Although the identity of the subject is unknown, she seems to represent an entire way of life. A commanding presence in the frame, the woman’s form is rendered in strong, but delicate tones, as befits the era. Taking its subtle details into account, the photograph is a consideration of light, form and social norms.