Edited by Blythe Daly
I had the great fortune to know Nell Dorr as a child. I spent many afternoons at her estate playing the piano, eating cookies in her kitchen, and sitting with her on the patio. Her books are now out of print and her estate has been sold, but this web site is my tribute to Nell Dorr who shared with me her love of photography and her infinite artistic and spiritual wisdom.
Nell Dorr's photography career began on the heels of the Pictorialist movement and continued for several decades to traverse a variety of subjects and perspectives. During this movement, artists as well as society as a whole began to believe that photography could be an art equal to any other and could yield artistic and aesthetic satisfaction. After a handful of shows and publications and the death of her youngest daughter in 1954, Nell Dorr gave up her commercial business and concentrated on photographs of mothers and daughters.
Nell Dorr spent almost six decades behind the camera and her work encompasses a wide range of styles and genres. Although her photography was at first a way to make ends meet financially, she nonetheless always considered her work an art, not a trade. When asked about the meaning of beauty, Nell Dorr replied "Without the one thing, beauty, I think I could not endure to live. With it, I can endure all. I find it equally in joy and in sorrow. In the greatest of each, in birth and in death, I find an almost unbearable beauty..."(from Mother and Child).
The majority of the photographs I have chosen for this page are from Nell Dorr's second book, Mother and Child(1954). During World War II, Nell Dorr took her three daughters (whose husbands were serving in the military) and her six grandchildren to a house in New Hampshire where she was joined by Tasha Tudor's family and her god-children.
Nell Dorr, in Mother and Child, seeks to capture the affection and affinity between a mother and a child. Nell Dorr used her camera to expose this affinity: "Become as one, you and your camera, clear as glass and selfless." The maternal connection is a "divine mystery" to Nell Dorr. "I see woman as the yeast of life without which all the dough in the world would not rise. The mother gives love to her child, inspiration to man and beauty to the world"(Popular Photography, March 1975). In Mother and Child, Nell Dorr gracefully combines loving photographs with her own eloquent words and poems. According to Nell Dorr, "A day is remembered for itself and the picture is all that we finally keep."