THE PROMOTION OF THE PHOTOGRAPH to the Status of an art object was
the goal of a movement known as Pictorialism. Based on the belief
that camera images might engage the feelings and senses, and
nourished initially by the concept of Naturalism articulated by
Peter Henry Emerson, Pictorialism flourished between 1889 and the
onset of the first World War as a celebration of the artistic camera
image. The aesthetic photographers who were its advocates held that
photographs should be concerned with beauty rather than fact. They
regarded the optical sharpness and exact replicative aspects of the
medium as limitations inhibiting the expression of individuality and
therefore accepted manipulation of the photographic print as an
emblem of self-expression. Animated by the same concern with taste
and feeling as other visual artists, Pictorialists maintained that
artistic photographs should be regarded as equivalents of work in
other media and treated accordingly by the artistic establishment.
Many of the images made under the banner of Pictorialism now seem
little more than misdirected imitations of graphic art, as
uninspired as the dull documentary images to which they were a
reaction, but a number have retained a refreshing vitality. More
significantly, the ideas and assumptions that sparked the movement
have continued to inspire photographers, even though as style
Pictorialism became outmoded around 1912.
Why the growing interest in
artistic camera images in the last decade of the 19th century? It
followed from the simplification of processes and procedures
discussed in Chapter 6, and reflected the divergent uses to which
the medium was being put as industrialization and urbanization
proceeded. The dramatic expansion in the number of photographers
(owing to the introduction of dry film and hand cameras) permitted
many individuals to regard the photograph simply as a visual record,
but it encouraged others to approach the medium as a pastime with
expressive potential. Simultaneous with the publication of
photo-graphs of daily events, social conditions, and scientific
phenomena in reading matter for the increasingly literate public,
the wide dissemination of accurate reproductions of masterworks of
visual art—also made possible by photographic and printing
technologies—made the public more aware of visual culture in
general. Furthermore, the emphasis on craft: and artistry in
journals and societies devoted to amateur photography was
specifically aimed at fostering an aesthetic attitude toward the
medium on the part of photographers.
This multiform expansion in
photography took place against a background of stylistic transition
in all the arts. As a consequence of greater familiarity with the
arts of the world through reproductions, art collections, and
increased travel, artists were able to expand their horizons,
confront new kinds of subject matter, and embrace new concepts and
ideologies. Within the diversity of styles that emerged, an art of
nuance, mystery, and evocation, an art "essentially concerned with
personal vision" held a special attraction. Realism, the ascendant
motif in the visual arts during much of photography's early
existence, was challenged by Symbolists and Tonalists who proclaimed
new goals for the arts. Less involved with the appearances of
actuality, or with the scientific analysis of light that had engaged
artists from Courbet to Monet, Symbolists maintained that while
science might answer the demand for truthful information, art must
respond to the need for entertainment and stimulation of the senses.
However, in photography the situation was complicated by the fact
that while some aesthetic photographers held truth and beauty to be
antithetical aims, others viewed the medium as a means of combining
the aims of art and science and imbuing them with personal feeling.
Pictorialism: Ideas and Practice
During the 1890s, serious amateurs
as well as professionals deplored the "fatal facility" that made
possible millions upon millions of camera images of little artistic
merit. In seeking to distinguish their own work from this mass of
utilitarian photographs, Pictorialists articulated a dual role for
the medium in which images would provide an unnuanced record on the
one hand, and, on the other, provoke thought and feeling. Aesthetic
photographers were convinced that in the past "the mechanical
nature" of photography had "asserted itself so far beyond the
artistic, that the latter might... be described as latent," and they
sought to redress this perceived imbalance by selecting subjects
traditional to the graphic arts, by emphasizing individualistic
treatment and by insisting on the artistic presentation of camera
images. Photographs, they held, should be regarded as "pictures" in
the same sense as images made entirely by hand; that is, they should
be judged for their artistry and ability to evoke feeling rather
than for their powers of description. In their insistence that
photographs show the capacity to handle "composition, chiaroscuro,
truth, harmony, sentiment and suggestion," Pictorialists hoped to
countervail the still prevalent attitude among graphic artists and
the public in general that the camera could not duplicate "the
certain something . . . personal, human, emotional... in work done
by the unaided union of brain, hand and eye." They hoped also to
appeal to collectors of visual art for whom aesthetic quality and
individuality were important considerations. Individuality of style
was expressed through the unique print, considered by many at the
time to be the hallmark of artistic photography. Using non-silver
substances such as bichromated gelatin and carbon—materials
originally perfected to assure permanence—photographers found that
they were able to control tonalities, introduce highlights, and
obscure or remove details that seemed too descriptive. Many of these
effects were accomplished by using fingers, stumps, pencils,
brushes, and etching tools to alter the forms in the soft gum, oil,
and pigment substances before they hardened, or by printing on a
variety of art papers, from heavily textured to relatively smooth
Japanese tissues. In that no positive print emerged as an exact
version of the negative, or an identical duplicate of itself, these
manipulations and materials, in addition to serving the expressive
needs of the photographer, also satisfied collectors who preferred
rare or singular artifacts. Gum printing, which involves a
combination of gum arabic, potassium bichromate, and colored
pigment, became popular after 1897 when photographers Robert Demachy
in France and Alfred Maskell in England together published
Photo-Aquatint, or the Gum-Bichromate Process. In 1904 a method of
printing in oil pigments evolved, resulting in a greater range of
colors available to the photographer. These procedures could be used
only if the print were the same size as the negative, but in 1907,
the Bromoil process made it possible to work with enlargements as
well as contact prints.
These procedures, sometimes called
"ennobling processes" because they permitted the exploration of
creative ideas by hand manipulation directly on the print, provoked
a lively controversy among aesthetic photographers themselves as
well as among critics. Excessive handwork produced photographs that
at times were indistinguishable from lithographs, etchings, and
drawings and led some Pictorialists to deplore the eradication of
the unique qualities of the photograph; others cautioned discretion,
observing that gum printing "is only safe in exceptionally competent
hands," which regrettably were not numerous. During the early 1900s,
the viewpoint that initially had held that the artistic quality' of
the final work would justify whatever choice of printing materials
and techniques had been made gave way, as prestigious figures in
artistic photography joined with less sympathetic critics to decry
murky, ill-defined photographs as "fuzzygraphics."
Pictorialist advocates of straight
printing did not usually intervene directly in the chemical
substances of the print, although on occasion they might dodge or
hold back portions of the negative. In the main, they followed the
course marked out by Emerson, finding in carbon- and platinum-coated
paper (Platinotype) the luminous tonalities and long scale of values
they believed were unique to the expressive character of the medium.
Again like Emerson, many preferred to make multiple images by the
hand-gravure process—a method of transferring the photograph to a
copper plate that was etched, inked, and printed on fine paper on a
flatbed press to produce a limited edition of nearly identical
Pictorialism: Styles and Themes
In looking to painting for
inspiration, late-19th-century aesthetic photographers were
confronted by a confusing array of outmoded and emerging artistic
ideologies and stylistic tendencies, from Barbizon naturalism to
Impressionism, Tonalism, and Symbolism. Not surprisingly, many were
attracted by motifs that already had been found acceptable by art
critics and the public, among which the idealization of peasant
life, first explored by Barbizon painters at mid-century, ranked
high. This concept in the work of Emerson and Frank Sutcliffe is
expressed with down-to-earth robustness, while other aesthetic
photographers turned such scenes into embodiments of the picturesque
and artful. In one example, Waiting for the Return—a photograph of
the wives of fishermen waiting on the beach at Katwyck, Holland, for
the boats to come in—Alfred Stieglitz selects a vantage point from
which he can create an uncluttered arrangement; he controls the
tonalities to suggest an atmospheric haze that softens the forms and
at the same time endows the women with larger-than-life stature. The
horizontal format, the flat tonalities of the figural groups, and
the treatment of recessional space also suggest the influence of
Japanese woodblock prints.
A theme that attracted both
aesthetic photographers and painters was the pure natural landscape.
In common with the Symbolist and Tonalist painters who viewed nature
as the only force "undisturbed by the vicissitudes of man,"
aesthetic photographers in Europe and America regarded landscape
with a sense of elegiac melancholy. Taking their cues from the
Nocturnes of Whistler, the mystic reveries of the Swiss painter
Arnold Boecklin, or the poetic impressions of the Americans George
Inness and Henry Ward Ranger, they regarded suggestiveness as more
evocative than fact, and preferred the crepuscular moment to
sun-drenched daylight, the quiet, intimate pond to dramatic mountain
wilderness. Instead of the crisply defined forms and strong
contrasts of earlier topographical imagery, they offered the vague
shapes and subdued tonalities visible in Woods Interior by Edward
Steichen, a work obviously related in its organization, treatment,
and mood to Ranger's scene, Bradbury's Mill Pond, No. 2.
ALFRED STIEGLITZ. Icy Night, 1893
EDWARD STEICHEN. Woods Interior, 1898.
Platinum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
Stieglitz Collection, 1933.
The female figure, both as a study
in beauty and a symbol of motherhood was another subject of common
interest to painters and aesthetic photographers. Softly focused
portraits of elegantly attired enigmatic women— favored by
Pictorialists everywhere—stressed stylishness and charm rather than
individual strength of character. A related theme, women and
children engaged in leisurely domestic activity or at play in home
and garden, appealed to both men and women photographers, who
produced idealized visions of intimate family life, transforming
what formerly had been a prosaic genre subject into a comforting
visual idyll of middle-class gentility. With its seemingly random
arrangement, curvilinear forms, and delicate tonalities, The Picture
Book by the renowned American portraitist Gertrude Kasebier isolates
its two intertwined figures in a peaceable terrain untroubled by
domestic or social friction.
Few motifs better illustrate the
gulf that developed between aesthetic camera "pictures" and straight
camera documents than the nude figure. Around the turn of the
century, Pictorialists on both sides of the Atlantic approached the
unclothed body with great diffidence, picking their way timidly
through the "canons of good taste." Camera studies of the nude by
artists, among them those made by Czechoslovak painter Alphonse
Marie Mucha for various decorative commissions in his native land,
France, and the United States, or the numerous studies of the
undraped figure taken by Thomas Eakins (or his students) as study
materials for paintings, or for anatomy classes as celebrations of
the human form were not intended for exhibition or public
delectation. Convinced that "ART alone"12 might sanction this
troublesome yet attractive subject, photographers avoided ordinary
or coarse-looking models and selected ideally proportioned females
whose bodies, it was believed, would suggest beauty rather than
sensuality. Combining classical poses in landscape settings, to
which props suggestive of the "Antique" were sometimes added, with
artistic lighting and handwork (at times, extensive) to obliterate
telling details, aesthetic photographers hoped to prove that in
photography "nude and lewd" need not necessarily be "synonymous
GERTRUDE KASEBIER. The Picture Book,
Gravure print. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
American portrait photographer
Gertrude Käsebier (née Stanton) (1852 - 1934) was a part of the
PhotoSecession movement along with Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon
Coburn and Clarence Hudson White and a founder of the Pictorial
Photographers of America.
While studying painting in her late thirties, she shifted her
interests to photography. With minimum professional training, she
opened a studio in 1897, and used the proceeds to support her ill
husband. She was a founding member of the Photo-Secession group
along with Alfred Stieglitz, who printed several of her photographs
in the first issue of his magazine Camera Work.
Using relaxed poses in natural light, emphasizing the play of light
and dark, Kasebier let her subjects fill most of the frame. She was
also noted for her printing process and ability to produce images
with a painterly quality. She was the first woman to be in the
Linked Ring and the founding member of the Pictorial Photographers
of America. Motherhood is a central theme for her work.
CLARENCE WHITE. Nude, c. 1909.
Platinum print. Private collection.
Clarence Hudson White (April 8,
1871 – July 7, 1925) was an American photographer and a founding
member of the Photo-Secession movement. During his lifetime he was
widely recognized as a master of the art form for his consummate
sentimental, pictorial portraits and for his excellence as a teacher
of photography. Toward the end of his career he founded the Clarence
H. White School of Photography, which produced many of the
best-known photographers of the Twentieth Century including Margaret
Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, and Paul Outerbridge.
Other than those engaged in a
commerce in erotic images, early photographers of the nude had been
constrained by the realistic nature of the medium and by Victorian
attitudes toward the unclothed human bodv to endow their images with
allegorical dimension (when they did not direct them to the needs of
graphic artists). Attitudes began to change shortly before the turn
of the century, and as the nude in painting and graphic art emerged
from a long history of masquerading as goddess or captive slave (or
as in Edouard Manet's Olympia as prostitute), the female nude figure
became a motif in and for itself in both painting and aesthetic
photography. Some photographers still cast their nude figures as
sprites and nymphs, but others no longer felt the need to obscure
their attraction to the intrinsically graceful and sensuous forms of
the unclothed female. Indeed, the very absence of allegory or
narrative in this treatment served to emphasize the new role of the
photograph as a strictly aesthetic artifact.
While Pictorialists everywhere
photographed the nude, aesthetic photographers working in France and
the United States most enthusiastically explored the expressive
possibilities of this motif. Conventional academic poses and
extensive manipulation of the print, typified by the works of French
photographers Demachy and Rene LeBegue and the American Frank
Eugene, rendered some photographs of the nude almost
indistinguishable from etchings and lithographs, while a group
portrait of nude youngsters by American Pictorialist Alice Boughton
exemplifies the less derivative arrangement and more direct
treatment of light and form that also was possible.
ALICE BOUGHTON. Sand and Wild Roses,
(1865-1936) was born in New York
but moved to Munich in his 20s where he studied art and soon became
well-established as a portrait painter before he took up photography
about 1885. He was elected to the Linked Ring in 1900 and was a
founder of the Photo-Secession movement, undoubtedly because of his
close personal and professional relationship to Alfred Steiglitz. A
biography, The Dream of Beauty, was published in 1955. Eugene was
known for his substantial manipulation of his negatives—so much so
that the output was often a cross between a graphic work and a
photographic print. In that he anticipated a number of contemporary
artists and printmakers.
FRANK EUGENE. Male Nude (1897)
The great majority of aesthetic
images of the nude were of adult females, the undraped male body
being considered by nearly everyone as too flagrantly sexual for
depiction in any visual art intended for viewers of mixed sexes.
However, articles on nudity in photography (written largely by men),
which had begun to appear in camera journals after 1890, suggested
that young boys would make especially appropriate models because
their bodies were less sensually provocative than those of women.
Wilhelm von Gloeden and F. Holland Day were two significant figures
of the period who chose to photograph not only adolescent boys but
older males, too. Von Gloeden, a trained painter who preferred the
mellow culture of the Mediterranean to that of his native Germany,
worked in Taormina, Sicily, between 1898 and 1913, while Day, an
early admirer of Svmbolist art and literature, was an "improper"
Bostonian of means working in Massachusetts and Maine during the
same period. Their images display a partiality to the trappings of
classical antiquity, perhaps because they realized that to be
artistically palatable the male nude—youthful or otherwise—needed a
quasi-allegorical guise. However, although the head wreaths,
draperies, and pottery that abound in Von Gloeden's works may have
suggested elevated aesthetic aims, and the images were in fact
proposed as "valuable for designers and others," his young Sicilians
often seem unabashedly athletic and sexual to modern eyes. On the
other hand, Day handled the poses and lighting of the nude male
presented in the guise of pastoral figures with such discretion that
a contemporary critic observed that "his nude studies are free of
the look that makes most photographs of this sort merely indecent."
Some Pictorialist photographers
embraced allegorical or literary themes, posing costumed figures
amid props in the manner of the Pre-Raphaelites and Julia Margaret
Cameron, with results that ranged from merely unsuccessful to what
some consider ridiculous. Among the more controversial examples of
this penchant for historical legend were reconstituted "sacred"
images by Day, by the French Pictorialist Pierre Dubreuil, by
Lejaren a Hiller (an American photographer who eventually turned
this interest into a success in commercial advertising), and by
Federico Maria Poppi, an Italian Pictorialist. The fact that Day's
series of religious images were obviously staged, with die
photographer himself posing for the Christ figure, prompted the
critic Charles H. Caffin to call "such a divagation from good taste
Possibly even more misguided
because they lacked any originality, subtlety, or psychological
nuance were camera images that aimed to emulate high art by
appropriating actual compositions painted by Renaissance masters or
Dutch genre painters. Guido Rey and Richard Polack, from Italy and
the Netherlands respectively, pho-tographed costumed models arranged
in settings in which props, decor, and lighting mimicked well-known
paintings. In view of the absence of conviction or genuine emotion
in all of these works, one could conclude that the orchestration
necessary to re-create religious or historical events or painted
scenes conflicts with the nature of pure photography. As one critic
noted about Day's tableaux, "In looking at a photograph, you cannot
forget that it is a representation of something that existed when it
A strong interest in light and
color, which for some Pictorialists had found an outlet in pigment
printing processes, prompted others to experiment with Lumiere
Autochrome plates when this color material reached the market in
1907. In general, European Pictorialists who favored gum and oil
pigment processes for working in color regarded Autochrome as too
precise for artistic effects. An exception was the Austrian Heinrich
Kuehn, who joined with the Americans Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank
Eugene, Steichen, and Stieglitz to investigate the range and
possibilities of the material. Kuehn was highly successful in
harmonizing the dyes—cool, airy blues and greens—to achieve a sense
of spontaneous intimacy in views of family life , despite the long
exposures required. Works in Autochrome by members of the American
Photo-Secession (see below), several of which also pictured family
members and their activities, are somewhat more static in
organization and more mellow in color, reflecting the somber
harmonies of some fin-de-siecle painting in Europe and the United
States. The fact that Autochrome transparencies were difficult to
exhibit and to reproduce may account for their relatively brief
popularity among the leading Photo-Secessionists, but other (later)
American Pictorialists, including Arnold Genthe and Laura Gilpin,
continued to use the material into the 1920s.
Pictorialist Societies: Goals and
By the early 1890s, established
photographic societies, set up in an era when objectives in
photography were largely undifferentiated, no longer served the
needs of all photographers. Unconcerned with, and indeed often
contemptuous of, the commercial and scientific aspects of
photography that the older societies accommodated, partisans of
aesthetic photographs began to form groups whose sole aim was to
promote camera art. The Secession movement led to the formation of
the Wiener Kamera Klub in 1891, The Linked Ring in 1892, the
Photo-Club de Paris in 1894, and the Photo-Secession in New York in
1902. In the same years, amateur photographic societies in Germany,
Italy, the Hapsburg domains, Russia, and the smaller cities of the
United States made available forums for the exchange of information
about aesthetic concepts and processes, and provided exhibition
space for the work of local Pictorialists and that of the
better-known figures of the Secession movement.
Exhibiting aesthetic photographs in
an appropriate context was a paramount goal of the movement. Besides
sponsoring their own gallery spaces, the most famous of which was
the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York (known as
"291"), photographers attempted to interest galleries, museums, and
fine arts academies in displaying camera images either alone or in
conjunction with examples of graphic art. They urged also that
photographers be represented on the juries of selection for
photo-graphic shows, since they alone would have the experience to
separate imaginative and tasteful from uninspired works. Starting in
1893, and continuing into the 20th century, a number of prestigious
institutions in Germany and the United States began to exhibit
camera images, among them the Royal Academy in Berlin, the Hamburg
Kunsthalle, and the Albright, Carnegie, and Corcoran galleries in
the United States. Artistic photographs were exhibited at several of
the large fine and decorative art exhibitions, including one
sponsored by the Munich Secession in 1898. and the international
shows at Glasgow in 1901 and in Turin in 1904. An exhibition devoted
entirely to artistic photography held in 1891 under the auspices of
the Club der Amateur-Photogmphien of Vienna became a model for
annual exhibitions or Salons that were started in London and Hamburg
in 1893, in Paris in 1894, and in Brussels. Vienna, and The Hague in
the following years.
Art photography attracted
articulate support in periodicals and books. Before 1890,
photographic, literary, and general interest journals in Europe and
the United States had devoted space to a discussion of the artistic
merits of the medium, and while they continued to do so, after 1890
a literature whose sole purpose was to promote the movement flowered
not only in the cosmopolitan centers of the west but in Russia,
Italy, and Eastern Europe. Camera Work, launched in New York in 1905
by members of the Photo-Secession, and praised for the exceptional
level of design and gravure reproduction it maintained throughout
its 14 years of existence, was one of a number of periodicals that
included Photogram, La Revue Photographique and Photographische
Kunst in which similar aesthetic positions were as lucidly (if not
as tastefully) embraced. Magazines with a popular readership also
included articles on artistic photography. Between 1898 and 1918,
for example, American art critic Sadakichi Hartmann, who was
eulogized "as the first art critic who realized the possibility of
photography being developed into a fine art," placed some 500
articles on artistic photography in a variety of American and
European journals. Around 1900, Mill-length works conceived in the
tradition of earlier tracts on photographic art by Emerson or Henry
Peach Robinson formulated the theoretical arguments for aesthetic
photography'. To cite but two, La Photographic estelle une art? by
French critic Robert de la Sizeranne—a work exceptionally
influential in Eastern Europe as well as in France—and Photography
as a Fine Art, by the American critic Charles Caffin, attempted to
convince the cultivated viewer that since the same expressive
concerns animated all artists no matter what medium they used, the
same criteria should be applied to images made by camera and by
The Linked Ring—the first major
organization to institutionalize the new aesthetic attitudes—was
formed by a number of English amateurs whose disenchantment with The
Photographic Society of London (renamed the Royal Photographic
Society in 1894) prompted them to secede from that body in 1891 and
1892. This group, which included George Davison, Alfred Horsley
Hinton (editor after 1893 of Amateur Photography), Maskell, Lydell
Sawyer, and Henry Peach Robinson, modeled their organization on a
contemporary art group—the New English Art Club—and encouraged
members, accepted by invitation only, to pursue "the development of
the highest form of Art of which Photography is capable." Though
Emerson himself was not a member, the Ring followed his precept that
"a work of art ends with itself; there should be no ulterior motive
beyond the giving of aesthetic pleasure. . . ." They established
relationships with Pictorialist photographers in other countries,
some of whom were honored with invitations to become "Links" and to
submit work to the yearly exhibitions at the annual Salon of
Pictorial Photography, known as the London Salon. British members
seem to have been inspired primarily by landscape; their work is
marked by the unusually somber moods visible in gum prints by Hinton
or in Davison's The Onion Field (also called An Old Farmstead, pi.
no. 366), made using a camera with a pinhole instead of a lens.
Combining the rural subject matter of Naturalistic photography with
an impressionistic treatment that makes all substances—fields,
buildings, sky, and clouds—appear to be made of the same stuff, this
work was exceptionally influential among photographers of the time.
For example, it prompted Alexander Keighlcy, a photographer of
somewhat derivative genre scenes, to turn to romantic soft-focus
treatments of landscape. A similar use of atmospheric haze and broad
shapes and tonalities in dealing with city themes can be seen in
John Dudley Johnston's Liverpool—An Impression, a pensive view with
subtle Whistler-like nuances achieved by consummate handling of the
ALFRED HORSLEY HINTON. Recessional, c. 1895.
Gravure print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England.
GEORGE DAVISON. The Onion Field, 1890.
Gravure print. Kodak Museum, Harrow, England.
ALEXANDER KEIGHLEY. Fantasy, 1913.
Carbon print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.
JOHN DUDLEY JOHNSTON. Liverpool—An Impression, 1906.
Gum bichromate print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England.
James Craig Annan, Frederick H.
Evans, and Frank M. Sutcliffe represent members of the Ring who
favored straight printing and chose to evoke poetic feelings through
means other than the manipulation of printing materials. Annan, an
accomplished gravure printer,' produced artistic effects by the
subtle handling of light and shadow seen in the linear patterns in
the water in Black Canal. Sutcliffe suggests the ethereal quality of
fog-enshrouded places in View of the Harbor by his control of the
relationship of foreground to background tonalities. In Kelmscott
Manor: In the Attics, Evans, the Ring's most esteemed architectural
photographer, summons up a serene sense of peacefulness and of
humane order in the arrangement of architectonic elements and
The Photo-Club de Paris was
organized in 1894 by Maurice Bucquct to provide an alternative to
the professionally oriented Soriete Frangaise de Photographies in
the same year it inaugurated an annual Salon. Members included
Demachy, LeBegue, and E. J. Constant Puyo, all ardent enthusiasts of
handwork. Up until 1914, when he gave up the medium, Demachy used
his considerable means and leisure to promote artistic photography
and its processes, collaborating, as has been noted, with Maskell in
1897 and with Puyo in 1906 on a manual of artistic processes in
photography. In his own work, he favored nudes, bucolic landscapes,
and dancers, and frequently printed in red, brown, and gray pigments
using the gum process. The images of ballet dancers were considered
"delightful" by his contemporaries, but when compared with paintings
and drawings on this theme by Edgar Degas, they seem derivative and
lacking in vitality, Puyo, a former commandant in the French army,
at times favored impressionistic effects in landscape and genre
scenes and at other times sharply defined Art Nouveau decorative
patterns, especially in portraits of fashionable women. He designed
and used special lenses to create these effects but also condoned
extensive manipulation as a way of vanquishing what he called
"automatism"—that is, the sense that the image was produced by a
machine-without feeling. Other members included Leonard Misonne, a
Belgian photographer of city and rural scenes, and Dubreuil, who
portrayed pastoral landscapes around Lille in the manner of the
French painter Constant Troyon, but later adopted modernist ideas.
The earliest international
exhibition of Pictorialist works in German-speaking countries took
place in Vienna in 1891 under the auspices of the Wiener Kamera Klub.
It was seen by the Austrian Kuehn and the Germans Hugo Henneberg
and Hans Watzek; three years later these three emerged as the most
prominent art photographers in eentral Europe, exhibiting together
as the Trifolium or Kleeblatt. In Germany, the exhibitions held at
Berlin, Hamburg, and especially Munich toward the end of the 19th
century had made it clear that the camera was more than a practical
tool and that the photograph might be a source of aesthetic pleasure
as well as information.
Portraiture was one of the first
motifs to be affected by the new sensibility, with inspiration
coming from an exhibition of portraits by David Octavius Hill and
Robert Adamson included in the Hamburg International Exhibition in
1899 and in an exhibition in Dresden in 1904. Portrait photographers
began to realize that artistic discrimination in lighting, combined
with attention to expressive contour, might create more evocative
works than was possible with the unmodulated studio illumination
that played evenly over conventionally posed sitters. This awareness
prompted a new approach by the well-known portrait team of Rudolf
Duhrkoop and his daughter Minya Diez-Duhrkoop in Hamburg and by Hugo
Erfurth in Dresden. The strong tonal contrast and attention to
contour in Erfurth's portrait of Professor Dorsch continued to
mark the persuasive portraits made by this photographer into the
1920s. Other portraitists of the time whose work reflected an
interest in artistic lighting and treatment were Nicola Perscheid,
working in Berlin and Leipzig, and the partners Arthur Benda and
Dora Kallmus—better known as Madame D'Ora—who maintained a studio in
Vienna from 1907 through 1925. Besides printing in silver and gum,
all three were interested in a straight color printing process known
as Pinatype, a forerunner of dye-transfer printing invented in
France in 1903.
JAMES CRAIG ANNAN. A Black Canal (Probably Venice), 1894.
Gravure print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
FRANK MEADOW SUTCLIFFE. View of the Harbor, 1880s.
Carbon print. Photography Collection, New York Public Library,
Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
ROBERT DEMACHY. A Ballerina, 1900.
Gum bichromate print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
Demachy, a Frenchman, was a banker
by profession, and an amateur artist, becoming a leading
photographer in the 1890s. He was the founder of the Photo Club of
Paris, a member of London's Linked Ring, and of the Photo-Secession.
An influential photographer of the time was Dr. P. Emerson, who
fostered a more subjective approach to photography than hitherto. As
a result, there was an emphasis on minimum detail and soft focus.
However, for some photographers this was as far as one should go; it
was perfectly admissible to control one's photography at the camera
stage, but one should not tamper with the photograph at the printing
stage beyond employing very modest negative re-touching techniques.
his was not sufficient for other photographers, and Robert Demachy,
together with other photographers such as George Davidson and Alfred
Maskell began to experiment at the printing stage as well. A
familiar phrase attributed to Demachy is "The end justifies the
means", which sums up his approach to picture making.
His photographic work was quite diverse; he exhibited portraits,
street scenes and figure studies, and wrote a a number of books and
about a thousand articles on photography.
He is an interesting photographer to study because his work
epitomises the controversy which existed in the world of photography
at the turn of the century. Demachy had little time for the
"straight print" photographers, especially if they presumed to call
themselves artists. No straight print, he declared, with "its false
values, its lack of accents, its equal delineation of things
important and useless" could really be called art. "A straight print
may be beautiful, and it may prove.. that its author is an artist;
but it cannot be a work of art... A work of art must be a
transcription, not a copy, of nature...This special quality.."
(which makes it a work of art) "is given in the artist's way of
expressing himself... If a man slavishly copies nature, no matter if
it is with hand and pencil or through a photographic lens, he may be
a supreme artist all the while, but that particular work of his
cannot be called a work of art..."
However, perhaps to counter argument, he also made the observation
that manipulation was not necessarily art: "Too many pictorialists
will meddle with their prints in the fond belief that any
alteration, however bungling, is the touchstone of art...."
In addition to deliberately using soft focus lenses to blur and
soften the image, he also used printing processes which required
manipulation. The final result was by no means pure photography,
because the finished result in many of his pictures was achieved by
using brushwork together with photography.
An example of this technique is his Figure Study from an Etched
Negative, a gum print produced in 1906. One can readily see the long
diagonal lines etched over the body greatly reducing photographic
Among his favourite subjects was young ballet dancers, in a style
very much reminiscent of Degas' work. He also made studies of
A powerful image is En Bretagne, which must be a composite from a
number of negatives.
ROBERT DEMACHY. Vitesse (Speed), 1903
E. J. CONSTANT PUYO. Summer, 1903.
Green pigment ozotype. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
PIERRE DUBREUIL. Dusk on the Marsh in the Snow, 1898.
Silver bromide print. Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.
HUGO HENNEBERG. Italian Landscape and Villa, 1902.
Pigment gum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
Stieglitz Collection, 1933.
HANS WATZEK. Still Life, from the portfolio Gummidrucke, c. 1901.
Gravure print. Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
RUDOLF DUHRKOOP AND MINYA DIEZ-DUHRKOOP. Alfred Kerr, 1904.
Oil pigment print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England
RUDOLF DUHRKOOP. Memorie
HUGO ERFURTH. Professor Dorsch, 1903.
Gum bichromate print. Staatliehe Landesbildstcllc, Hamburg;
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.
HUGO ERFURTH. Portrait of boy,1906
Landscapes, still life, and tigural
compositions, many of which were subject to extensive manipulation,
absorbed both professional and amateur photographers in Germany.
Large works in gum in strong colors, produced jointly by the Hamburg
amateurs Oskar and Theodor Hofmeister, were exhibited at the London
Salon and 291, and collected by Stieglitz, but other German
Pietorialists were equally adept and turned out images similar in
style and quality; The Reaper, a gum print in blue pigment by
Perseheid, is typical of the genre. Heinrich Beck, a minor
government official, was awarded a silver medal at the 1903 Hamburg
exhibition of art photography; Georg Einbeek, a former painter,
combined graphic and photographic techniques to create exhibition
posters; and Gustav E. B. Trinks, an employee of an import-export
company, exhibited silver bromide and gum prints at all the
important Pictorialist exhibitions. Otto Scharf, in his time one of
the most respected art photographers in Germany, was extravagantly
praised for the brilliance with which he handled silver, platinum,
and colored gum materials to evoke mood and feeling in scenes
typified by Rhine Street, Krefeld, a green gum print of 1901.
Artistic photography made headway
elsewhere in Europe, too, with individuals in Holland, Belgium, and
the Scandinavian countries drawing inspiration from Pictorialist
activity in France and Germany. The work of Finnish photographers
Konrad Inha (born Nystrom) and Wladimir Schohin suggests the range
of artistic camera work outside the better-known cosmopolitan
centers of Europe. Inha, a journalist, made romantic images of rural
landscape and peasant life in the Naturalist mode, which he
published in 1896 as Pictorial Finland, while Schohin, owner of a
retail business in Helsinki, used carbon, gum, and bromoil
processes, and experimented with Auto-chrome, in his depictions of
the middle-class life of his milieu.
To the south, the city of Turin,
Italy, played host to the International Exposition of Modern
Decorative Art in 1903, thereby providing Italians with an
opportunity to see a collection of American works selected by
Stieglitz. A year later, La Fotqgrafica Artistica, an Italian review
of international pictorial photography was founded, and a small
sroup began to make artistic works in the medium. Their work ran a
gamut from the previously mentioned reconstructed religious scenes
to genre studies of provincial life to atmospheric landscapes. The
Spanish amateur photographer Jose Ortiz Echague began to work in the
Pictorialist style around 1906, continuing in this tradition until
long after the style had become outmoded; his artfully posed and
lighted genre images, reproduced in several publications on Spanish
life that appeared during the 1930s, tend toward picturesqueness.
Despite the political instability
and economic changes taking place in eastern Europe and the
continued emphasis in many localities on ethnographic photographs to
advance the cause of nationalism, a strong interest in photography
as self-expression led to the formation of amateur Pictorialist
societies in the major cities of an area that now includes
Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Hungary, with the movement especially
vital in Poland. The Club of Photographic Art Lovers and the journal
Photographic Review, established in Lvov in 1891 and followed by
similar groups in other Polish cities, provided an opportunity for
the exhibition and reproduction of the works of important
Pictorialists, including Demachy, Kuchn, and Steichen. The president
of the Lvov group, Henryk Mikolasch observed that artistic
photographs might "reflect thought, soul, and word," in place of
"tasteless and pedantic... exactness," a concept that led him to
idealize peasant life in his own images, which he printed in gum
with much Pictorialist photography outside of London, Paris, and New
York, artistic camera work in Poland was firmly tied to naturalism
and the Barbizon tradition, to which the so-called ennobling
processes added a sense of atmosphere; eventually these means were
integrated into the modernist style that emerged in Poland in the
Around 1900, the concept of art
photography attracted a number of Russian photographers of landscape
and genre, who heeded the call by Nikolai Petrov, later artistic
director of the Pictorialist journal Vestnik Fotografi (Herald of
Photography), to go beyond the unfeeling representation of nature.
Employing gum and pigment processes, they, too, adopted a creative
approach to subjects taken from Russian village life. This work,
exemplified in photographs by Sergei Lobovikov that were exhibited
in Dresden, Hamburg, and Paris as well as in Russia, also evolved
from the concept of the nobility of peasant life, but with their
subtle balance of art, documentation, and compassion they have a
distinctive character that avoids sentimentality. In contrast,
Alexis Mazourine, descendant of an esteemed Moscow family, sought
inspiration in the more cosmopolitan centers of Hamburg and Vienna,
where his platinum landscapes and figure compositions were as well
known as in his own country. A group that emerged in Japan around
1904 devoted itself to art photography, producing lyrical,
soft-focus scenes that often resemble popular paintings.
OSKAR AND THEODOR HOFMEISTER. The Haymaker, c. 1904.
Gum bichromate print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.
NICOLA PERSCHEID. The Reaper, 1901.
Gum bichromate print. Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.
NICOLA PERSCHEID. Untitled
HEINRICH BECK. Childhood Dreams, 1903.
Gum bichromate print. Museum fur Kunst mid Gewerbe, Hamburg.
OTTO SCHARF. Rhine Street, Krefeld, 1898.
Gum bichromate print. Museum rur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.
JOSE ORTIZ ECHAGUE. Young Singers, c. 1934.
Direct carbon print. San Diego Museum of Art; purchased by the Fine
Arts Society, 1934.
SERGEI LOBOVIKOV. Peasant Scene, probably late 1890s.
Gelatin silver print. Sovfoto Magazine and VAAP, Moscow.
ALEXIS MAZOURINE. River Landscape with Rowboat.
Platinum print. Staatliche Landesbildstelle, Hamburg; Museum fur
Kunst und Gewerbc, Hamburg.
Pictorialism in the United States
American photographs shown at the
London Salon in 1899 were singled out for the "virtues" of
"concentration, strength, massing of light and shade and breadth of
effect"—qualities exemplified in Day's unusual portrait of a young
black man entitled An Ethiopian Chief. Several factors made American
work appear vigorous in European eyes. For one, the Pictorialist
movement was exceptionally broad-based, with activities in small
towns and major cities, and it attracted people from varied
economic, social, and regional backgrounds. Unlike their European
counterparts, who were mainly men of means or in the arts, Americans
of both sexes, active in commercial photography, in the arts, in
business, in the professions, and as housewives, joined photographic
societies, giving the movement a varied and democratic cast.
Women, who were more active in all
aspects of photography in the United States, were especially
prominent in Pictorialism. Gertrude Kasebier, the most illustrious
of the female portraitists, was praised for having done more for
artistic portraiture than any other of her time—painter or
photographer—by her discerning sense of "what to leave out." Many
women, among them Boughton, Zaida Ben-Yusuf, Mary Devens, Emma
Farnsworth, Clara Sipprell, Eva Watson-Schutze, and Mathilde Weil,
specialized in portraiture and refined themes, exemplified by The
Rose—a portrait in Pre-Raphaelite style by Watson-Schutze. The nude,
sometimes conceived in allegorical terms, attracted Anne W. Brigman,
Adelaide Hanscom, and Jane Reece; Brigman's 1905 work The Bubble is
typical of the idyllic treatment accorded this subject by both men
and women at a time when such camera images were just becoming
accepted by sophisticated viewers. Women also were among the early
professional photojournalists in the United States; Frances Benjamin
Johnston, who exhibited at salons and joined the Photo-Secession,
was a freelance magazine photographer of note. In 1900, she
collected and took abroad 142 works by 28 women photographers for
exhibition in France and Russia—further evidence that as a medium
without a long tradition of male-dominated academies, photography
offered female participants an opportunity for self-expression
denied them in the traditional visual arts.
Another difference between
Americans and Europeans involved attitudes toward the manipulation
of prints that made photographs look like works of graphic art.
Reflecting the considerable disagreement among American critics
about the virtues of handwork on negatives and prints, photographers
in the United States chose less frequently to work with processes
that completely obscured the mechanical origin of camera images.
Whether members of the Photo-Secession or not, they preferred
platinum, carbon, and, less often, gum-bichromate, sometimes in
combination with platinum, to bromoil and oil pigment materials.
Even when availing themselves of the variety of colorations made
possible with gum-bichromate, they favored, with several notable
exceptions, direct printing without hand intervention on relatively
smooth rather than heavily textured papers.
Traces of a wide variety of
tendencies current in graphic art are to be seen in the work of
American Pictorialists. Within the Photo-Secession and in some of
the better-organized Pictorialist societies in the East, the
dominant styles were derived from Tonalist and Symbolist paintings,
but the influence of other movements in the arts, in particular that
of the French Barbizon painters, is also visible. Toward 1900, the
art of the Japanese became an especially potent influence, reaching
both graphic artists and photographers in the United States in part
through the writings of the eminent art teacher Arthur Wesley Dow,
who translated its concepts into a system of flat tonal harmonies
called notan. With its emphasis on subtle ungraduatcd tonalities,
this manner of handling chiaroscuro, in concert with simplicity of
composition and absence of deep spatial perspective, imparted a
distinctively decorative aspect to many Pictorialist images.
F. HOLLAND DAY. An Ethiopian Chief, c. 1896.
Platinum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
Stieglitz Collection, 1933.
GERTRUDE KASEBIER. Robert Henri, c. 1907.
Silver print toned and coated to simulate gum print.
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; F. M.
EVA WATSON-SCHUTZE. The Rose, 1903 or
Gum bichromate print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred
Stieglitz Collection, 1949.
EVA WATSON-SCHUTZE. Nude woman on a rock, 1904
EVA WATSON-SCHUTZE. Mother and children looking at an album, 1904
ANNE W. BRIGMAN. The Bubble, 1905.
Gelatin silver print. Art Museum. nncnitv, Princeton, N.J.; gift of
Mrs. Raymond C. Collins.
ANNE W. BRIGMAN
Anne W. Brigman (1869 - 1950) was
an American photographer and one of the original members of the
Photo-Secession movement in America. Her most famous images were
taken between 1900 and 1920, and depict nude women in primordial,
Brigman was born in Hawaii in 1869 and moved to California when she
was sixteen. In 1894 she married a sea captain, Martin Brigman. She
was trained as a painter but began taking photos around 1902. That
year, Alfred Stieglitz noticed Brigman's work and invited her to
join the Photo-Secession, an elite group of pictorialist American
photographers who were dedicated to transforming photography into a
higher form of art. Brigman was the only Fellow of the society west
of the Mississippi River, and one of the few women. Her photos were
printed in three issues of Stieglitz's journal, Camera Work.
In California, she became revered by West Coast photographers and
her photography influenced many of her contemporaries. Here, she was
also known as an actress in local plays, and as a poet performing
both her own work and more popular pieces such as Enoch Arden. An
admirer of the work of George Wharton James, she photographed him on
at least one occasion. Brigman died in 1950 in California.
Brigman's photographs frequently focused on the female nude,
dramatically situated in natural landscapes or trees. Many of her
photos were taken in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in carefully
selected locations and featuring elaborately staged poses. Brigman
often featured herself as the subject of her images. After shooting
the photographs, she would extensively touch up the negatives with
paints, pencil, or superimposition.
Brigman's deliberately counter-cultural images suggested bohemianism
and female liberation. Her work challenged the establishment's
cultural norms and defied convention, instead embracing pagan
antiquity. The raw emotional intensity and barbaric strength of her
photos contrasted with the carefully calculated and composed images
of Stieglitz and other modern photographers.
ANNE W. BRIGMAN. The Heart of the Storm , 1912
Several regional Pictorialist
groups were primarily concerned with landscape imagery. Many members
of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia—a venerable club
organized in 1862 and the first to actively promote artistic
photography—drew nourishment from the earlier tradition of landscape
imagery supported by The Philadelphia Photographer, as well as from
the Naturalistic concepts of Emerson. Individual members, among them
Robert S. Redfield, Henry Troth, and Woodbridge endeavored to
achieve "unity of style and harmony of effect" and to subordinate
description to artistic purpose in subtly modulated landscapes
printed on platinum. In New York State, another such group, the
Buffalo Camera Club (organized 1888) also displayed a reverential
attitude toward nature. Asserting the need for attention to
"harmonious composition and well-managed lights and shadows,"31
their handling of light and atmosphere, exemplified in founding
member Wilbur H. Porter-field's September Morning, 1906, projects a
melancholy mood similar to that in the tonalist paintings of Inncss,
Ranger, and Alexander Wyant.
LOUISE DESHONG WOODBRIDGE. Outlet On
the Lake, 1885.
Platinum print, 1898. Janet Lehr, Inc., New York.
WILBUR H. PORTERFIELD. September Morning, 1906.
Gelatin silver print. Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society,
Photographers in these groups and
others working on their own in the same tradition often were not
considered first-rate by the mentors of Pictorialism, in part
because they tended to cling to outdated attitudes regarding theme
and treatment. For instance, Leigh Richmond Miner, instructor of art
at Virginia's Hampton Institute around the turn of the century,
viewed the black farmers and fisher-men living on the islands off
the coast of South Carolina with reverence and cast his many images
of them in a heroic mold. Other photographers of Southern rural life
among them Clarence B. Moore, a member of the Photo-graphic Society
of Philadelphia, and Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., a well-known New York
Pictorialist, transformed rural people into ingratiating genre
types, emphasizing industriousness and nobility of character through
their choices of lighting and pose. Remnants of this approach
lingered into the 1930s, as can be seen in portraits made by
Prentice Hall Polk, official photographer at Tuskeegee Institute,
and by New York portraitist Doris Ulmann, who idealized the
inhabitants of the Appalachian highlands where she photographed in
the late 1920s and '30s.
PRENTICE HALL POLK. The Boss, 1933.
Gelatin silver print
DORIS ULMANN. Untitled, c. 1925-34.
Gravure print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mrs. John D.
Similar picturesque qualities
characterize many of the portraits made by Arnold Gcnthe of the
inhabitants of San Francisco's Chinese quarter, except that a number
of his images, though seen through the haze of a romanticizing
vision, have a refreshing spontaneity that distinguishes them from
more statically posed rural genre images. Genthe was a member of the
California Camera Club, which was organized in 1890 in San Francisco
and with 400 or so members, was for many years the primary enclave
of art photography on the West Coast. Although members of the group,
including Laura Adams Armer, Anne W. Brigman, William Dassonville,
and Oscar Maurer, participated in Salon exhibitions on the East
Coast and in Europe, and several became members of the Photo-Seces¬sion,
no cohesive style of California photography emerged.
Instead, the flat massing of tonal
areas, seen in Armer's Chinatown and in many other examples from
this region, seems related to the pervasive interest in the arts of
Japan that affected photography everywhere in the United States
during the last decade of the 19th century. Idealization was the
keynote of the extensive pictorial document of American Indian life
undertaken in 1899 by Edward S. Curtis. While camera studies of
Indian life were being made at the time by a number of
photographers, Curtis (funded in part by the financier J. P. Morgan)
may be considered with the Pictorialists because he selected for his
portrayal of the "vanishing race" picturesque individuals—mainly
women and elders—and on occasion even provided them with appealing
costumes. He composed and cropped scenes carefully and printed on
platinum paper or by gravure, eventually producing 20 volumes and a
like number of portfolios of text and images entitled The North
American Indian. The photographer's endeavor to conjure up a
rhapsodical vision of American Indian experience, as well as to make
an ethnographically correct document, is exemplified in The
Vanishing Race. His work, which briefly found a market soon after
the turn of the century, appealed to Americans who had begun to
regard Native Americans as an "exotic spectacle" to be promoted as a
tourist activity. However, until 1970, this portrayal had for nearly
half a century remained unknown to the photographic community and
the public alike.
LAURA ADAMS ARMER. Chinatown, c. 1908.
Gelatin silver print. California Historical Society Library, San
Doris Ulmann (May 29, 1882-August
28, 1934) was an American photographer, best known for her portraits
of the people of Appalachia made between 1928 and 1934.
Ulmann was a native of New York City, the daughter of Bernhard and
Gertrude (Mass) Ulmann. Educated in public school--at the Ethical
Culture Fieldston School, a socially liberal organization that
championed individual worth regardless of ethnic background or
economic condition--and Columbia University, she intended to become
a teacher of psychology. Her interest in photography was at first a
hobby, but after 1918 she devoted herself to the art professionally.
She was a member of the Pictorial Photographers of America. Ulmann
documented the rural people of the South, particularly the mountain
peoples of Appalachia and the Gullahs of the Sea Islands, with a
profound respect for her sitters and an ethnographer's eye for
culture. Ulmann was trained as a pictorialist and graduated from the
Clarence H. White School of Modern Photography. Other students of
the school who went on to become notable photographers include
Margaret Bourke-White, Anne Brigman, Dorothea Lange, Paul
Outerbridge, and Karl Struss. Her work was exhibited in various New
York galleries, and published in Theatre Arts Monthly, Mentor,
Scribner's Magazine, and Survey Graphic. Ulmann was married for a
time to Dr. Charles H. Jaeger, a fellow Pictorialist photographer
and an orthopedic surgeon on the staff of Columbia University
Medical School and a likely connection for her 1920 Hoeber
publication, The faculty of the College of Physicians & Surgeons,
Columbia University in the City of New York: twenty-four portraits
This was followed in 1922 by the publication of her Book of
Portraits of the Medical Faculty of the Johns Hopkins University;
the 1925 A Portrait Gallery of American Editors, and in 1933, Roll,
Jordan Roll, the text by Julia Peterkin. The fine art edition of
Roll, Jordan Roll is considered to be one of the most beautiful
books ever produced.
In an interview with Dale Warren of Bookman, Doris Ulmann referred
to her particular interest in portraits. "The faces of men and women
in the street are probably as interesting as literary faces, but my
particular human angle leads me to men and women who write. I am not
interested exclusively in literary faces, because 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. For this reason the face of
an older person, perhaps not beautiful in the strictest sense, is
usually more appealing than the face of a younger person who has
scarcely been touched by life."
Ulmann's early work includes a series of portraits of prominent
intellectuals, artists and writers: William Butler Yeats, John
Dewey, Max Eastman, Sinclair Lewis, Lewis Mumford, Joseph Wood
Krutch, Martha Graham, Anna Pavlova, Paul Robeson, and Lillian Gish.
In 1932 Ulmann began her most important series, assembling
documentation of Appalachian folk arts and crafts for Allen Eaton's
landmark 1937 book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands. From
1927, Ulmann was assisted on her rural travels by John Jacob Niles,
a musician and folklorist who collected ballads while Ulmann
photographed. In failing health, she suffered a collapse in August
of 1934 while working near Ashville, North Carolina and returned to
New York. Doris Ulmann died August 28, 1934.
Upon Ulmann's death, a foundation she had established took custody
of her images. Allen Eaton, John Jacob Niles, Olive Dame Campbell
(of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina),
Ulmann's brother-in-law Henry L. Necarsulmer, and Berea
schoolteacher Helen Dingman were named trustees. Samuel H. Lifshey,
a New York commercial photographer, developed the negatives Ulmann
had exposed during her final trip, and then made proof prints from
the vast archive of more than 10,000 glass plate negatives. (Lifshey
also developed the 2,000 exposed negatives from Ulmann's last
expedition, and produced the prints for Eaton's book.) The proof
prints were mounted into albums, which were annotated by John Jacob
Niles and Allen Eaton, chair of the foundation and another noted
folklorist, to indicate names of the sitters and dates of capture.
The primary repository of Ulmann's work is at the University of
Oregon Libraries' Special Collections. The Doris Ulmann collection,
PH038, includes 2,739 silver gelatin glass plate negatives, 304
original matted prints, and 79 albums (containing over 10,000
Lifshey proof prints) assembled by the Doris Ulmann Foundation
between 1934 and 1937. The silver gelatin glass plate negatives are
the only known remaining Ulmann negatives. Of the 304 matted
photographs, approximately half are platinum prints that were
mounted and signed by Ulmann; the others are silver gelatin prints
developed by Lifshey. Additional collections can be found at Berea
College in Kentucky (primarily images taken in the vicinity of
Berea) and the New York Historical Society (primarily of prominent
New Yorkers). As art objects, her photographs are also part of many
museum collections including the Smithsonian and the J. Paul Getty
Museum. Doris Ulmann was an extremely private person and left no
documentation other than her images.
DORIS ULMANN. Laborer's Hands, c. 1925