Beginning August 25, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens will present the first complete retrospective of the work of photographer Doris Ulmann.
Ulmann (1882–1934) created studio portraits of literary and artistic celebrities in her native New York, but she also traveled across the South to document the rural craftspeople of Appalachia and the African American and Gullah communities of coastal South Carolina and Georgia.
Although her portraits include many of the most famous intellectuals, artists and writers of her day — William Butler Yeats, John Dewey, Max Eastman, Sinclair Lewis, Lewis Mumford, Martha Graham, Anna Pavlova, Paul Robeson and Lillian Gish among them — she was an extremely private person and left little documentation outside of her images.
“A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face,” she said in a rare interview in 1930.
For the exhibition, entitled Vernacular Modernism, GMA’s curator of American art Sarah Kate Gillespie has selected 100 of Ulmann’s photographs from museum and library collections to display alongside related books, crafts and works of art by her contemporaries.