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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Doris Ulmann

Other: Doris Jaeger 
Other: Doris Ulman 
Other: Doris Ulmann Jaeger 
Dates:  1882, 29 May - 1934, 28 August
Born:  US, NY, New York
Died:  US, NY, New York
Active:  US
Studio portraits in the pictorialist style, followed by shows of minorities such as the Shaker, Memmonite and Dunker communities.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Doris Ulmann
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Ulmann photographed from the 1910s until her death in 1934, concentrating on portrait work. Her images of both well-known Americans and rural southern blacks were published in numerous books during her lifetime.
Doris Ulmann was born into an affluent New York City family on May 29, 1882. She took teacher training with photographer Lewis W. Hine at the Ethical Culture School from 1900 to 1903 and subsequently studied psychology and law at Columbia University. In about 1915, she married Dr. Charles H. Jaeger (who also photographed), whose last name she used until her divorce ten years later.
Around 1910, Ulmann began studying photography with Clarence H. White, the guiding light of pictorialism at the time. She took classes with him at both Columbiaís Teachers College and the White School of Photography in New York. When the White school moved to a new location in 1920, a solo show of her photographs inaugurated its gallery. By this time she was a member of the Pictorial Photographers of America (PPA), a group that included reproductions of her work in four of its annuals during the 1920s, titled Pictorial Photography in America. In 1929, she provided a cover image for the groupís bulletin, Light and Shade.
Ulmann exhibited with the PPA and elsewhere. An Exhibition of Pictorial Photography by American Artists, organized and traveled by the PPA in 1917, included work by her and her husband. In 1923, the group accepted pictures by her for its first salon, seen in New York, and circulated an exhibition of photographs by Imogen Cunningham, Laura Gilpin, and Ulmann. Her work was included in salons in Los Angeles in 1920 and 1924, and Pittsburgh four times during the 1920s. The Delphic Studios in New York gave her one-person exhibitions in 1929 and 1933.
Ulmann devoted herself to professional photography in 1918. She began making softly focused portraits in her living room of famous individuals in literature and the arts. Within the next decade, three deluxe gravure-printed books of her portraits appeared: Twenty-four Portraits of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (1919), A Book of Portraits of the Medical Faculty of the Johns Hopkins University (1922), and A Portrait Gallery of American Editors (1925).
In about 1925, after divorcing her husband, Ulmann began to photograph rural folk along the East Coast. Initially, she worked in New England, concentrating on Amish, Mennonite, and Shaker communities. After 1927, she traveled with folklorist John Jacobs Niles to remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains, producing her best-known work there over the next several years. She also made portraits of the black residents of a South Carolina plantation; these were used to illustrate Julia Peterkinís book, Roll, Jordan, Roll, published in 1933.
Doris Ulmann was well connected enough in 1934 to have dinner at the Roosevelt White House. Later that year, she fell ill while photographing on the road in the South. She died at her New York home on August 28, 1934. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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Biography provided by Focal Press 
Studied with Clarence White. Her photographs provide a respectful portrait of the rural culture and craftspeople of the southern highlands of the Appalachian Mountains and the Gullahs of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Bringing pictorialist techniques to documentary work, she used a view camera and made platinum prints based on her annual "folklore and photographic expeditions." Her images provide an important ethnographic and historical record. 
(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

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Unidentified photographer
Doris Ulmann 
Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
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Internet resources

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Doris Ulmann Collection ... 
Housed at the University of Oregon. 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.140 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.230 [Includes a well written short biography on Doris Ulmann with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.259-260 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Lahs-Gonzales, Olivia & Lippard, Lucy 1997 Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century. Selections from the Helen Kornblum Collection (Saint Louis Art Museum, D.A.P.) [Doris Ulmann is included in this overview of women photographers.] 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.174 
• Naef, Weston 2004 Photographers of Genius at the Getty (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) [For this photographer there is a description and three sample photographs from the Getty collection. p.100-103] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Doris Ulmann was represented in 49 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
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