Dorothy Norman

(1905 - 1997) American


Dorothy Norman was born in Philadelphia and educated at briefly Smith College and then at the University of Pennsylvania. She moved with her husband to New York, where during the 1920s and 1930s she dedicated herself to working with organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the New York League of Women Voters. She first met Alfred Stieglitz at his Intimate Gallery in 1927, and the pair became close friends and were lovers until the elder photographer's death in 1946. Norman had developed a strong affection for Stieglitz even before meeting him, on the basis of his photography. By 1928, Norman had completed a series of articles that formed the basis of her memorial book Alfred Stieglitz: An American Seer (1973). With the loan of a Graflex camera from Stieglitz in 1931, she began taking her own photographs, which Stieglitz often inscribed with comments. Norman edited and published Twice a Year: A Semi-Annual Journal of Literature, the Arts and Civil Liberties between 1938 and 1948, and wrote a column, "A World to Live In," three times a week for the New York Post from 1942 to 1949. After Stieglitz's death, she became involved with the Indian independence movement, and in the early 1950s she founded and chaired two committees to aid India. By the mid-1950s, Norman ceased taking photographs.
Norman was better known for her writing, humanitarianism, and work done on behalf of Alfred Stieglitz and his legacy than her own photography. She worked as a photographer primarily between 1931 and the mid-1950s, and her efforts received little attention. Although she was working at the same time as Margaret Bourke-White and other prominent women photographers in New York, she never identified herself as a photographer, and never took professional assignments. Her work is appreciated best for its personal, intimate qualities which are richly apparent in her still lifes and portraits.
Meredith Fisher
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 223.
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