American photographer Doris Ulmann (1882-1934) was raised in New York City and attended the Ethical Culture Society’s teacher training program and Columbia University, where she studied psychology and took photography classes with Clarence White and later became one of his first students at the Clarence H. White School of Photography. Ulmann is best known for documenting the rural people of the South, especially the people of Appalachia, who she affectionately referred to as her “mountaineers.”
About the subjects of her work, Ulmann said, “I have been more deeply moved by some of my mountaineers than by any literary person. 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.” Ulmann believed that all the people she photographed had a common quality: genuineness. She wanted to record these mountain people because she feared that “their kind” were gradually disappearing.
Over the course of her career, Doris Ulmann produced over 10,000 photographs. Approximately 3,000 of which were images of the craftspeople of the southern highlands. During the last years of her life, Berea College worked with Ulmann to document the local crafts traditions in and around Berea. Upon her death, Ulmann bequeathed 3,072 photographs to Berea College as well as money for the construction of a new gallery. Although these galleries were not built until much later, they are dedicated to her and celebrate her commitment to the people and arts in Appalachia.
Materials in The Ulmann Collection are used by permission of the Berea College Art Department and the Doris Ulmann Foundation, for educational purposes only.