Doris Ulmann: Photography and Folklore (April 9 to July 7, 1996)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 9 to July 7, 1996
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Brother William of the Shaker Settlement, Mount Lebanon, New York
Doris Ulmann (American, 1882 - 1934)
Mount Lebanon, New York, United States (Place Created)
20.5 × 15.3 cm (8 1/16 × 6 in.)
In the mid-1920s Doris Ulmann began in earnest what would be a lifelong project—photographing American "types." Her first trips out of New York City for this purpose resulted in portraits of Dunkards, Shakers, and Mennonites living in rural parts of Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania. (See other images from the Shaker settlement: 87.XM.89.62 and 87.XM.89.63).
Elder William Anderson, who would die at the age of eighty-nine in 1930, was a prominent member of the much-diminished Shaker sect residing at the site of the original eighteenth-century settlement near New Lebanon, New York. According to an article published in a local paper on the occasion of his eighty-fifth birthday, Anderson was raised in New York City but came to the Mount Lebanon colony seeking "new adventures." His responsibilities there eventually included teaching, farming, surveying, bookkeeping, and, for forty years, overseeing the chairmaking business of the colony. The Biographical Review's 1894 volume on The Leading Citizens of Columbia County listed him as one of five males making up the "twenty souls" of the colony's South Family and described him as someone with "much executive ability" who was well respected by his employees, "a great many of whom are hired from outside the village, most of the men here being very aged."
When Ulmann photographed him around 1927, Anderson was deaf and almost blind, but he still possessed, at least through her lens, the same dignity and commanding presence that had made him a leader of those trying to survive outside mainstream American society. (For more information on Elder Anderson see: https://shakerml.org).
Judith Keller. Doris Ulmann, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 30. ©1996, J. Paul Getty Trust.