Books: The Appalachian Photographs of Doris Ulmann

  Ulmann Cover

The Appalachian Photographs of Doris Ulmann Introduction by John Jacob Niles | Preface by Jonathan Williams The Jargon Society | 1971 Paperback | 104 pages | 63 black and white plates

One of my favorite hobbies is to track down photography books about Appalachia. My good friend Joy Salyers loaned me this copy of Ulmann's Appalachia work from the North Carolina Folklife Institute.

Ulmann had this to say about making photographs in Appalachia: "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."

"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 1934 while working near Asheville, North Carolina and returned to New York. Doris Ulmann died August 28, 1934." [Wikipedia contributors, "Doris Ulmann," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (This page was last modified on 2 February 2012 at 08:00).]

I've selected a few of my favorite portraits from the work to share. I've included the an identification of the plates, with comments, by John Jacob Niles.

Plate 5: W.J. Martin. Brasstown, North Carolina. He farmed and supplemented his income by woodcarving. Plate 6: (No information, but one hell of a beard - my comment.)

Plate 19: Mrs. Lowery, Brasstown, North Carolina. Plate 20: Ella Webster, Texana, near Murphy, North Carolina. She was a singer, an outstanding one, who knew both the black man's music and the white man's ballads. It was from her that I got the version of "The Hangman" which I sing in my concerts.

Plate 29: Mrs. Johnson. Farmer's wife and singer, Brasstown, North Carolina. Plate 30: Mrs. Ford, Wooton, Kentucky.

This is definitely a title I'll add to my collection of Appalachian photography books. The three main sites I shop for books on - Amazon, Better World Books, and AbeBooks - show prices ranging from just under $20 for a good used copy to nearly $200 for collectible copies.