Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The mystical photographs of Julia Cameron

“My first successes in my out-of-focus pictures were a fluke.That is to say, that when focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist on.”

Julia Margaret Cameron took up photography at age 50, throwing herself into the medium heart and soul. The  process was messy and complex, but she was undaunted, and the results were wondrous. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently devoting its first-ever exhibition to this pioneer artist of the lens, and I've culled a few choice examples from its online exhibit.
In spring and summer of 1866, Cameron produced a series of 12 “life-sized heads,” including the Botticelli-like image of Kate Keown above.
Cameron enjoyed creating tableaux vivants from literature and legend. Above is an evocative depiction of Lear with his three daughters (the girl on the right is Alice Liddell, of Alice in Wonderland fame; at left are her sisters Lorina and Elizabeth). The photograph from 1872 shown below, depicts Alice (who was 20 at the time) as Pomona, Roman goddess of gardens and fruit trees.
The story of Camelot comes alive in this haunting image, entitled “The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere.”
Cameron made many striking photographs of her niece, Julia Jackson/Duckworth/Stephen (Virginia Woolf's mother).
The great Hungarian-born violinist Joseph Joachim was a close friend of Brahms, the Schumanns, and Franz Liszt. During a trip to London, he sat for Cameron in a studio at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert), where her photographs had been acquired and exhibited.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was a neighbor of Cameron's at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.
Below: Cameron had her friend, the renowned scientist Sir John Herschel, wash his hair before sitting for a portrait, so that it could be tousled and hence catch the light.

More photographic excellence
Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz; 
Photo Nomad by David Douglas Duncan;


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Granted, saying "cheese" makes for a hokey smile, but why do they all look so solemn? Pomona looks like I tried to cheat her 5 cents out of an apple!

    Don't you HATE spam?! (see above)

    1. Yes! to both. I think the solemn expressions are due in part to the long exposure times.