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Doris Ulmann: Roll, Jordan, Roll (1933) 
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Between 1901 and 1903 Doris Ulmann did teaching training with Lewis Hine and she later took photography classes with Clarence H. White who was a significant figure in the teaching of Pictorialism but who also appreciated the trend towards Modernism. Doris Ulmann, who came from an affluent white New York family, broke the colour barrier at a time when to do so was highly unusual. She took portraits of African Americans living in rural poverty in South Carolina.[1] Her subjects....
"included former slaves and their descendents on the Gullah coastal region of South Carolina." [2]
The photographs were published in Roll Jordan Roll[3] (1933) accompanied by text by Julia Peterkin. The photographs were hand-pulled copper photogravures that have the soft tones beloved by Pictorialists. The risk here is that the softness of photogravure has a tendency towards nostalgia for a rural past and this is at variance with a project that was documentary in nature and required detachment. In 1930 Doris Ulmann wrote:
"A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitute 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."[4]

  1. Λ Doris Ulmann, 1933, Roll Jordan Roll, (New York: Robert O. Ballou). Illustrated with 90 fill-page photogravures. 
  2. Λ Swann Galleries (Auction May 20, 2010, Sale 2215 Lot 22) - Doris Ulmann, 1933, Roll Jordan Roll, (New York: Robert O. Ballou) 
  3. Λ The title of the book Roll Jordan Roll is taken from a Negro Spiritual. 
  4. Λ Quoted in - Swann Galleries (Auction, Oct 17, 2014, #2361, Lot 69) 
Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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