Doris Ulmann photographs , 1914-1934

Overview of the Collection

Ulmann, Doris, 1882-1934
Doris Ulmann photographs
1914-1934 (bulk)
1914-2010 (inclusive)
69.8 linear feet, (152 containers)  :  15 flat boxes, 28 flat legal clamshells, 1 phase box, 108 negative boxes
Collection Number
PH 038
Doris Ulmann (1822-1934) was a New York photographer. The collection consists of vintage prints, proof prints bound in albums, and glass-plate negatives primarily featuring portraits of notable people, craftspeople, and farmers. The collection also includes reference prints and negatives reproduced from Ulmann's original negatives.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Glass plate negatives and lantern slides are restricted due to the fragility of the format. All decisions regarding use will be at the discretion of the curator for visual materials.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Doris Ulmann (1882-1934) was born in New York City. In 1900 she was enrolled in the school of the Ethical Culture Society. After graduation, Ulmann enrolled at Columbia University's Teacher's College where she fell under the tutelage of photography instructor Clarence H. White. White was a founding member of Photo-Secession in 1902 and a recognized leader of the Pictorialist movement. Though sympathetic to Pictorialism, Ulmann began to depart from its standard form in her photographic work.

By 1918 she began to pursue portraiture as her primary focus. Using her Park Avenue apartment as a studio, Ulmann photographed many well-known writers, intellectuals, and artists. Ulmann's work was featured in several fine press books: Twenty-four Portraits of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (1920), A Book of Portraits of the Medical Department of Johns Hopkins University (1922), and A Portrait Gallery of American Editors (1925).

Ulmann's initial reputation was built upon her portraiture of prominent sitters, but the major work of her life involved photographing rural people of the South. By 1925, Ulmann began to take trips outside of New York City in search of subjects. These outings led her to photograph Dunkard, Mennonite, and Shaker communities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. During this period Ulmann traveled to the Southern Highlands region of Kentucky where she took thousands of photographs in rural, isolated communities. These images were published in Allen Eaton's book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands (1934). Ulmann also photographed the Gullahs of the Sea Islands and tidewater areas of South Carolina and Georgia. Seventy-two of these images appear in Julia Peterkin's Roll, Jordan, Roll (1934).

Until her death she made yearly trips to photograph in remote regions of Appalachia with her assistant John Jacob Niles. Doris Ulmann died on August 28, 1934.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Series 1: Prints includes 304 original matted prints. Of these prints, approximately half are platinum prints that were mounted and signed by Ulmann; the others are silver gelatin prints developed by Samuel H. Lifshey, a New York commercial photographer, after Ulmann's death at the request of the Ulmann Foundation. The prints are 6.5 x 8.5" mounted onto approximately 11.5 x 14.25" boards with window mats.

The subject matter of the prints includes portraits in studio settings of famous figures and of rural residents from Appalachia and the South. The matted prints are organized into subseries based on the depicted setting and project: 1.1: Studio portraits and 1.2: Rural photography. Many of these portraits appear in Ulmann's published books of photogravures and these are described in 1.1 Studio portraits when available. Many of the celebrity portraits also include an inscription and signature of the sitter on the front of the mat.

Prints in Subseries 1.2: Rural photography generally have no formal titles assigned by Ulmann and includes some still lifes and landscapes in addition to the portraits. In both subseries, names of sitters have been described when available.

Series 2: Albums includes 81 albums containing over 10,000 proof prints assembled by the Doris Ulmann Foundation. These proof prints were printed between 1934 and 1937 by S. H. Lifshey after Ulmann's death from her original glass plate negatives. The albums were annotated with dates of capture and sitter's names by the Ulmann Foundation.

Series 3: Secondary material primarily includes copy reference prints and negatives reproduced from Ulmann's glass negatives after the collection was acquired by UO Libraries. These are organized by creator, including prints and negatives created by David Featherstone and prints, negatives, and slides created by UO Libraries or unnamed creators.

David Featherstone (b. 1945) is the author of Doris Ulmann: American portraits (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985) and the prints in this series were created during his research on the book. There are 383 prints of 100 images and 10 negatives by Featherstone. This series also includes a twenty-first century portrait of one of Ulmann's sitters, Frances Stiles Whitener, in her old age holding Ulmann's photos of her as a youth.

Series 4: Negatives includes glass plate negatives. These are the only remaining known Ulmann negatives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photography, Artistic
  • Portrait photographs