Dr. Barbara Young, a psychiatrist and photographer whose work can be found in major museum collections, dies

Dr. Barbara Young liked to photograph people, architecture and nature.

Dr. Barbara Young, who had dual careers as a psychiatrist and an acclaimed photographer and who was one of the early practitioners of color photography, died of cancer Sept. 28 at Symphony Manor, a Roland Park assisted living community, a month shy of her 102nd birthday. She was a longtime Herring Run resident.

“As a person, Barbara was an extraordinarily generous and criticallyminded person,” said Tom Beck, former curator of special collections at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


“As an artist, she was very much a pioneer in color photography, because until the 1970s, museums were only collecting black and white photographs, and Barbara only worked in color,” Mr. Beck said.

Jackie Wehmueller, a longtime friend, was an editor at the Johns Hopkins University Press.


“Barbara had a great eye and knowledge when it came to making sense of things. She was just extraordinary, and that’s a word she always used when discussing people,” Ms. Wehmueller said.

Barbara Young, daughter of the Rev. William Harvey Young, a Congregational minister, and Blanche DeBra Young, a college language teacher, was born, one of four, in Chicago. Because of her father’s work pastoring churches, she was raised in small, rural central Illinois towns, including El Paso, Plymouth, Brimfield and Chillicothe, until settling with her family in Galesburg, Illinois, where she graduated from Galesburg High School.

After graduating from Knox College in Galesburg in 1942, Dr. Young entered the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she obtained her medical degree in 1945. After a year as an intern and another in neurology at the University of Iowa Hospital, Dr. Young returned to Hopkins where she completed her psychiatric residency.

Following her residency, she worked two years as a staff psychiatrist at the old Perry Point Veterans Hospital before establishing her own private practice in 1951. Two years later, she graduated from the Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute.

Dr. Young practiced psychiatry and psychoanalysis until retiring in 2008.

“She faced the same conflict her mother had: Whether to marry and thus limit her ability to freely express her own creativity,” wrote a nephew, Harvey G. Young, of Atlanta, in a biographical profile of his aunt. “Her mother encouraged her to make up her own mind, saying that she was not obligated to marry. Ultimately, Dr. Young chose to remain single, sharing her home with a standard poodle and a Labrador retriever, and enjoying a rich social life with family members and friends.”

She embarked on her first trip to Europe in 1958 carrying a Kodak Brownie Star camera that had been given to her by a brother, William Arthur Young. When she returned, while applauding her photographic efforts, her brother suggested she needed a better camera, so she purchased a small two-lens Yashica.

In 1958, she made her first visit to Harbour Island in the Bahamas, a place she returned to for a few weeks each winter for the next 40 years, which resulted in a four-decade study of the island and its people.


“The camera opened the doors of Dunmore Town to me. They didn’t have cameras at the time,” Dr. Young wrote in her 2017 book, “Photographs Are Memories.”

“Each year I returned with a multitude of pictures for them, and a group of 8 X 10 prints that hung on a fishline in my cottage which they could buy for $7,” Dr. Young wrote.

In a note in “Photographs Are Memories,” Mr. Beck had written: “A Barbara Young photograph has the quality of a painting, a sketchbook, or a private diary … Here is Barbara Young’s presence in the images, and here, too, is a shared human consciousness.”

Through the years, Dr. Young pursued what she called “lighter cameras,” which grew to include a Tele Rolleiflex, a Hasselblad, a 35 mm Minolta and a Canon.

“On the whole I don’t consider myself ‘modern.’ I photograph what I love: people, architecture, and nature in all their infinite variety,” she wrote in her book.

By the early 1960s, Dr. Young said in a 1969 Evening Sun interview, she wanted to be away from her practice three months each year “in order to get acquainted with new people and to get acquainted with myself. In that time came writing and the photography.”


Her nephew wrote, “Her work is rich in metaphor, reflecting a close connection between her psychiatric training and her art.”

In 1962, Edward Steichen, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, purchased one of her first color works, “Golden Leaves,” for its permanent collection for $10.

“The image of a gnarled Japanese maple tree in the fall, crowned by early morning sunlight,” the noted photographer wrote in a letter to Dr. Young, “gives the feeling of what might be behind a troubled mind as expressed in the twisted turbulences one finds in nature.”

In addition to MoMA, Dr. Young’s work can be found in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Eastman House in Rochester, New York, Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California, Yale University Gallery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, which houses not only examples of her artwork but also her personal papers.

“When I take a photograph, I see the design,” she explained in a 2016 interview with Psychiatric News. “When I look at the enlargements, I am whisked back to the place I was standing when I took the photograph. Only later do I realize that some of the images speak of psychological things.”

In addition to “Photographs Are Memories,” other books that she has written featuring her photography include “The Plop-a-lop Tree,” “Tales of Courage: Recovering After Catastrophe” and “Looking Back: An Unusual Harum-Scarum Illustrated Autobiography.”

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Another book, “The Persona of Ingmar Bergman: Conquering Demons Through Film,” published in 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield, demonstrated how the filmmaker performed his own psychotherapy by making films.

Dr. Young exhibited widely across the country.

The late Baltimore Sun art critic Glenn McNatt wrote: “Her photographs — both those that feature nature and landscape subjects and her deeply humanistic photographic essays on the island people of the Caribbean — display the elegant and precise use of light and color to evoke a mood that eventually won over the most determined of skeptics.”

The ever-irrepressible and restless Dr. Young was “planning her next book at her death,” Ms. Wehmueller said.

“Leaning against my walker, a chair, a car — the joy goes on. I capture the snowstorm, the passing of time in the changing of the leaves. I revisit wherever I choose by looking at what is hanging on my walls,” Dr. Young wrote. “And I will leave behind this legacy of my long life in this book of photographs.”

Plans for a memorial service to be held in November are incomplete.


In addition to her nephew, she is survived by three other nephews, Walter Young of Phoenix, David Young of Webster, New York, and George Leiner of Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and five nieces, Elizabeth Johnson of Plainfield, Illinois, Martha Knapp of Irmo, South Carolina, Jean Vickers of St. George, Georgia, Barbara Waldorf of Galesburg, Illinois, and Margaret Walker of Peoria, Illinois.