Ulmann, Doris (1882–1934)

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Ulmann, Doris (1882–1934)

American portrait photographer. Born in 1882 in New York City; died in 1934 in New York City; daughter of Bernard Ulmann and Gertrude (Maas) Ulmann; educated at public schools; studied with Lewis Hine at Ethical Culture School in New York; studied psychology and law at Columbia University; studied photography with Clarence White at Columbia University and at his school; married Charles H. Jaeger (a doctor), before 1917 (divorced 1925).

Doris Ulmann was born in 1882 and grew up in a prosperous household on Park Avenue in New York City. Her mother died when she was young, and she traveled abroad with her father, eventually learning to speak French, German, and Italian. As a child, she had a stomach ulcer; this was corrected by surgery, but she remained frail all her life and would endure several more operations.

From 1900 to 1903, Ulmann studied at the Ethical Culture School in New York with Lewis Hine, whose photographs of immigrants and laborers would shortly gain him fame and lead to changes in U.S. child-labor laws. For awhile, she was interested in psychology and law and took classes in those subjects at Columbia University. Around this time, however, Ulmann became seriously interested in photography, and in 1907 began studying the art with Clarence White (a contemporary of Alfred Stieglitz, who was also at Columbia). When White opened the Clarence H. White School of Photography in 1914, Ulmann became one of its students; a fellow classmate was Laura Gilpin .

In the 1920s, Ulmann published her photographs in three books: Portraits, College of Physicians and Surgeons (1920), Portraits, Medical Faculty, Johns Hopkins University (1922), and A Portrait Gallery of American Editors (1925). In 1925, she began to shoot scenes of rural life, especially of people who lived in Dunkard, Mennonite, and Shaker communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New England. In 1927, she hired folk singer John Jacob Niles to travel with her by automobile while she photographed the people of Appalachia. In 1929 and 1930, she turned her attention to Gullah people on the islands of South Carolina and in 1933 published 70 of their portraits in Roll, Jordan, Roll, with text by Julia Peterkin . That same year, she worked with Allen Henderson Eaton to photograph people engaged in traditional crafts in the Southern Highlands of the United States. Ulmann, who had contributed photographs to Theatre Art Monthly, Bookman, Spur, and Vanity Fair, died the following year in New York City.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer

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