This is the first complete retrospective of the work of photographer Doris Ulmann (1882 – 1934), treating the full scope of her production, including her early pictorialist photographs, her studio portrait production, her focus on the rural craftsmen and women of Appalachia and her work on the African American and Gullah communities of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. It will be accompanied by a catalogue published by the museum.
The exhibition will consist of approximately 100 photographs by Ulmann, along with related books, crafts, and works of art (paintings and photographs) by selected contemporaries, primarily borrowed from museum and university collections. Ulmann created studio portraits in her native New York of literary and artistic celebrities but also traveled to Appalachia, the rural South and the Gullah coastal region to photograph locals and their crafts.
Because of her variety of subjects, her work is difficult to categorize, but it has elements of pictorialism (fine art photography that often blurred its subjects to emphasize atmosphere) and documentary photography. It focuses on preservation of the American past and shows an interest in some of modernism’s concerns: a priority on form, sharper tonal contrast and quality of line, and unmanipulated prints.