Nell Dorr

(1893 - 1988) American


Ohio-born Nell Dorr grew up surrounded by photography; her father, John Jacob Becker, co-founded one of the largest and most respected photography studios of the late nineteenth century. She was interested in her father's business at a young age but did not become a professional photographer until after she had moved to Florida with her husband and children in 1923. Dorr opened a portrait photography studio in Miami and worked on her own photographic projects. She was particularly interested in photomurals, and the International Gallery in New York City showed her pioneering efforts in this medium in 1932. In New York, Dorr met Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz, as well as her second husband, John Van Nostrand Dorr, a chemical engineer, metallurgist, and inventor. She published books of her photographs, including In a Blue Moon (1939), Mother and Child (1934), and Of Night and Day (1968). After the death of her youngest daughter in 1954, Dorr devoted herself to photographing mothers and children.
Dorr believed that terror and misery were already abundantly documented in American culture and thus committed herself to eliciting beauty in her photographs. Her images evoke the dreamy atmosphere of reminiscence. Dorr also made color sound films, and experimented with such photographic techniques as light abstraction, negative manipulation, and alternative printing processes. Dorr's work appeared in the 1979 ICP exhibition Recollections: Ten Women in Photography.
Lisa Hostetler

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. 214.
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