05 October 2009
Julia Cameron, Lord Tennyson and the Isle of Wight
The exhibition is called "For My Best Beloved Sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron." The works included in the showing were put together for Julia Margaret Cameron's sister, Maria Mia Jackson. Cameron originally gave her sister the partially filled album as a gift in July 1863, at the beginning of Julia's experiments with photography. Over the years, Mia filled the album with many of her sister's most iconic images.
Induro and Little Augury blogs added new information. As well as being the grand dame of Victorian photography, Cameron was the great aunt to sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (both nee Stephen) . That was one, very impressive family.. The girls were avid amateur photographers during their young years, and became two visually creative adults in their aesthetic and personal lives. And feminists, of course.
Julia Margaret Cameron was known for two things: illustrations of poems & other texts, and portraits of her Victorian contemporaries. The illustrations look a little contrived today; but the portraits, especially the monumental head-shots, remain mesmerising to us moderns.
Since very long exposures were needed, typically up to quarter of an hour, two elements were set in place: a] Cameron had to use a tripod device to keep the camera still. And b] she used the collodion wet plate process. Those long exposures are partly responsible for the wonderful softness and blurring in her images, but there may have been something else as well. At a time when photographic sharpness was valued, Cameron ran the risk that her images would be seen as feminine and soft edged. But Cameron didn't seem to be operating accidentally. She created an ethereal sense that has survived well.
Clearly there are many bloggers interested in Cameron. I became particularly interested in her photographic art career via Alfred, Lord Tennyson. So if I want to add something special to the blogging world, I will need to focus on her time on the Isle of Wight, as did Graphic Arts blog.
South Kensington Museum in Nov 2015 - Feb 2016 offers a retrospective of Cameron's work and looks at her relationship with the V&A’s founding director Sir Henry Cole. Cole presented the only exhibition of her work during her lifetime, in 1865. Her relationship with the museum clearly went back to the very start of her work