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Julia Margaret Cameron Pomona 1872

Julia Margaret Cameron At the Met August 19, 2013–January 5, 2014

JULIA MARGARET CAMERON was 48 years old and a mother of six when she received her first camera. at the time, the camera was considered a “new media” invention, used mostly by painters to capture scenes, “references,” much like sketches, to use later in their painting. Julia Margaret Cameron, and others, went on to use the camera to create a new Medium. Julia Margaret Cameron is an artist who, in her time, used what was then New Media technology, the camera, and used it to create beautiful and timeless art. Hew work show us that the concept of “New Media” technology has not just been invented, and doesn’t mean all flash and dazzle. It has been used ever since humans have sought to express themselves through art.

As the Met puts it,

“One of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) blended an unorthodox technique, a deeply spiritual sensibility, and a Pre- Raphaelite–inflected aesthetic to create a gallery of vivid portraits and a mirror of the Victorian soul. This will be the first New York City museum exhibition devoted to Cameron’s work in nearly a generation, and the first ever at the Met.”

“When she received her first camera in December 1863 as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law, Cameron was forty-eight, a mother of six, and a deeply religious, well-read, somewhat eccentric friend of many notable Victorian artists, poets, and thinkers. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour,” she wrote, “and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.” Condemned by some contemporaries for sloppy craftsmanship, she purposely avoided the perfect resolution and minute detail that glass negatives permitted, opting instead for carefully directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed the sitters’ slight movement to register in her pictures, instilling them with an uncommon sense of breath and life.”

Julia Margaret CameronAs an article in the The Gallerist By Maika Pollackdescribes the exhibition,

“Thirty-eight blurry, beautiful photographs star in the  Met’s tiny, jewel-like Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition. Born before photography was invented, Cameron was a latecomer to a new art form—her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera when she was 48. “It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph,” they wrote. She knew nothing about art or photography and erased her first photograph accidentally by rubbing her hand on the glass plate that held the image. But she quickly grew to love the medium. She turned her hen house into a photography studio. Surrounded by her six children, as well as nieces, nephews, neighbors and grandchildren, she produced some of the best portraits in the history of photography.”

“Cameron’s style is ethereal. Children would laugh and, moving, spoil the long exposures. She used a short-focus lens to capture details, but it put the rest of the image in a haze. In Julia Jackson (1867), the young woman is half-lit, and her long hair floats around her face in a gleaming cloud. Sometimes the glass plate negatives Cameron printed from are cracked, and sometimes her thumbprints are visible on the paper prints in the show. But the appeal of her work is beyond such technical fuss. The haloing effects actually make her subjects more believable—family members enacting staged tableaus dressed as mythological or literary characters (Cassiopeia, wood nymphs, King Lear), improbably become their subjects”

'The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere,' 1874. (Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

‘The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere,’ 1874. (Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Recommended Books from Atget Photography

Julia Margaret Cameron photographed many of the major figures of the nineteenth century, including Tennyson, Darwin, Robert Browning, and Longfellow. The bulk of her work, however, consists of portraits of women. This stunning book is the first to concentrate on this central aspect of Cameron’s work, providing new information and insights about one of photography’s most visionary practitioners.

From Life: Julia Margaret Cameron and Victorian PhotographyFrom Life tells the story of the greatest portrait photographer of the Victorian age, Julia Margaret Cameron. This is a fascinating and meticulously researched biography of a remarkable female artist who was decades ahead of her time.


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