Trained to think of photography as an art form on par with painting, Doris May Ulmann captured both the celebrities of her day and the rural poor of Appalachia with what the New York Times described as “haunting power.” Ulmann earned a teaching degree from the Ethical Culture School in 1903 and studied at the Clarence White School of Photography during WWI. White, inspired by impressionist painters, taught Ulmann to elevate photography to a fine art form, and she co-founded the Pictorial Photographers of America with him after the war. From 1920–1925 she published three volumes of photos of doctors and editors, but after divorcing her surgeon husband, Charles Jaeger, she shifted her focus, capturing the Appalachian poor, Mennonites, and Shakers as well as celebrities like Ansel Adams, Albert Einstein, Martha Graham, and Thornton Wilder. From 1929–1932 she photographed black plantation workers in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama. While on a return trip to Appalachia in 1934, she fell ill, dying soon after her return to New York. She endowed the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina and the Doris Ulmann Collection at Berea College in Kentucky.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Doris May Ulmann." (Viewed on December 9, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/ulmann-doris>.