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A Quilter from Roll, Jordan, Roll
A Quilter is one of several of Ulmann's Lang Syne images that present her subject's occupation as integral to her personality. In this sense, the photographs reflect a tradition of occupational portraits dating back to the era of the daguerreotype. Here, a woman sits on a porch before a horizontal pattern of clapboards and slatted window blinds that stabilize the closely cropped composition, giving a feeling of peace and wisdom. By contrast, the sitter is filled with energy, despite her obvious age. She gazes directly into the camera, confronting the viewer through thick spectacles and heavy eyelids. The curl of her brow--echoing the serpentine rail and splat of her chair--expresses an amiable resignation. Her slight smile conveys the wisdom of experience and endurance. The quilting on her lap suggests an analogue between character and artisan's skill--possibly influenced by John Jacob Niles's interest in regional craft. This image, like many of Ullman's other photographs of the Gullah people, shows an individual of dignity and accomplishment, sharing the responsibilities of their community. Several others depict farm laborers working together in active groups. Ulmann's photographs from Lang Syne have little of Julia Mood Peterkin's self-assured superiority of the Jim Crow era. These images seem to maintain a respectful distance, isolated from Peterkin's presumptuous familiarity.
from Acton, A History of Photography at the University of Notre Dame: Twentieth Century (Notre Dame, 2019)