Access Type

Online access to this book is only available to eligible users.



Download Full Text (68.1 MB)


Doris Ulmann (1882-1934) was one of the foremost photographers of the twentieth century, yet until now there has never been a biography of this fascinating, gifted artist. Born into a New York Jewish family with a tradition of service, Ulmann sought to portray and document individuals from various groups that she feared would vanish from American life. In the last eighteen years of her life, Ulmann created over 10,000 photographs and illustrated five books, including Roll, Jordan, Roll and Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands.

Inspired by the paintings of the European old masters and by the photographs of Hill and Adamson and Clarence White, Ulmann produced unique and substantial portrait studies. Working in her Park Avenue studio and traveling throughout the east coast, Appalachia, and the deep South, she carefully studied and photographed the faces of urban intellectuals as well as rural peoples. Her subjects included Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, African American basket weavers from South Carolina, and Kentucky mountain musicians. Relying on newly discovered letters, documents, and photographs—many published here for the first time—Philip Jacobs’s richly illustrated biography secures Ulmann’s rightful place in the history of American photography.

"An exhaustive study that rediscovers this important artist from between the wars in America."—Anniston Star

"Not only a book of intriguing photography, but a story of Ulmann’s very interesting life."—Appalachian Quarterly

"A lovely and important addition to the literature on women artists."—Bloomsbury Review

"Jacob’s success in tracking down Ulmann’s scattered letters and photographic archives, and in creating this incisive, well-illustrated biography, is cause for celebration."—Booklist (starred review)

"Uses correspondence between Ulmann and her assistant to explore their relationship, her work and social contributions, and the blend of art of social commentary which her photos embodied."—Bookwatch

"This is the first factual account of the career of Doris Ulmann—the story of an extraordinary woman’s wealth, her love for humanity, and her inspired vision as a photographic artist."—James D. Birchfield

"A veritable encyclopedia of Ulmanniana."—Journal of Southern History

"The photography is wonderful and . . . this book has a fascinating story to tell."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"Shows her deep attraction to the common people she photographed and how generous she was to them and others."—Loyal Jones

"The first book-length study of the life and work of this extraordinary gifted woman."—McCormick (SC) Messenger

"Reveals Ulmann’s complex biography and arresting photographs, many of which depict Appalachian people and lifestyles, from 1916 to her death in 1934."—Now & Then

"Presents a reassessment of her importance in a compelling and thoroughly documented biography of Ulmann the artist and woman."—Ron Pen

"Interprets the achievement of this remarkable woman with depth and sensitivity."—Southern Quarterly

"A good and necessary reference. . . . May well bring about greater awareness of Ulmann’s photography."—Washington Post Book World

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Doris Ulmann, Women photographers, Portrait photography



The Life and Photography of Doris Ulmann
Read Sample Off-campus Download for UK only

Consortium members may access while on their campus.