Posts Tagged ‘Julia Margaret Cameron Beatrice

14
Jul
19

Vale Joyce Evans OAM photographer (1929-2019)

July 2019

 

Joyce Evans. 'Untitled [Joyce with camera]' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Untitled [Joyce with camera]
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

It’s taken me more than a moment of reflection to write this text. The events are almost too close to write about my surrogate mother in Australia, my friend and fellow artist, Joycie. I can only write about the person I knew, not the time before I knew her – and so this will be a very personal reflection on one of the most incredible human beings that I have ever met.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light

Vale Joyce Evans.

Human, female, lover, mother, grandmother, wife, poet, publisher, writer, romantic, creative, humanist, universalist, spiritualist, bohemian, pioneer, gallery director, teacher, lecturer, collector, philanthropist, activist, artist, feminist, supporter of artists, Indigenous rights, civil rights, and the disenfranchised, exhibitor… and working photographer.

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I met the force of nature that was Joyce Olga Evans (1929-2019) through a mutual friend, Alison Inglis, who knew of our love of photography. It was the start of an intense friendship that lasted just seven or eight years until Joycie, as I used to call her, passed away at Easter this year. Before she passed she knew that she had been awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for service to photography. This was a long overdue tribute to a pioneer and supporter of photography in Australia, one of the first women to be the director of an independent, commercial photography gallery in this country.

Joyce had an incredible passion for and knowledge about photography, whether it was historical Australian or world photographers and their prints from any era, or contemporary artists here and overseas. Her collection of both local and international photographs was almost unparalleled in private hands in this country. She had such a keen eye. When attending a local auction with her she purchased an original William Mortensen for next to nothing. Nobody else had recognised the power and presence of the image by this master artist.

This incisive vision translated into her work as an artist who was a working photographer. At heart, that’s what Joyce was – a working photographer and a storyteller. She believed in photography like photographers get photography… not like an academic or a theoretician, but like an avid fan, an enthusiast, a passionate collector, a teacher. Photography was an integral part of her life, her soul.

She said to me of being an artist, “If we can find out what we are… that is the artist. The core element of your being, and the core element of your enquiry as an artist remains the same. The concerns that you had when you started being an artist are with you until the end. If the core part of your life is the search for truth then that becomes a core part of your identity. It becomes embedded in your soul.”

In this sense, photography becomes something of you, more than just intention – it becomes your essence, your shape…. your physical shape, a tangible thing.

Photography and its spirit inhabited Joyce as Joyce lived in the world. To Joyce, photography was just as much about the world and creativity as it was about the image. The image was just a manifestation of spirit, something that you worked at, recognised, and captured for what it was and could be. As Minor White said, “There is always a dragon in the negative,” and a dragon, that symbol of power, strength, and good luck, lived inside Joyce (see my favourite photograph of her below) and in her work. Her photographs possessed a spiritual and psychological sensation of the place.

As she said, “Making photographs that are memorable requires more than just camera, light and a story. It requires a type of harmony, unity, and an indefinable something, which I can best explain as becoming emotionally attached to the subject so that the images almost make themselves.”

Joyce’s commitment to photography was legendary. She was in it for the long haul.

I was always amazed when we were out in public, going to the exhibitions that we loved to visit, that she would always be taking photographs. Whenever she saw something that interested her out would come her beloved iPhone or digital camera, and she would talk to strangers and their children and take their photos. She was a totally open spirit and had no fear about the path she took. People embraced her, talked to her, responded to her energy and spirit. I remember travelling up to Sydney with her to see an exhibition of her favourite photographer, “Our Julia”, Julia Margaret Cameron at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and just observing that sparkle in her eyes, that unparalleled love that transcends all our pasts and futures in the simple moment of being and looking at these photographs.

Joyce was uncompromising. If she thought you were being a fuckwit she told you so in no uncertain terms. But she was a rock on which I came to depend. As someone said of her, “Joyce wasn’t into niceties and didn’t take any shit from anyone! I hope I grow up to be as tough as her. She was a visionary.” She really did not stand fools gladly (thank god), and had little truck for fine art photographers who didn’t understand the medium, its history or their small place within the grand scheme of things. As the playwright Edward Albee commented at the American painter Lee Krasner’s memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work, ‘…she looked you straight in the eye, and you dared not flinch’. It was the same with Joycie. She could see deep inside you to the core of your being.

Joyce loved helping people. She was so generous of her time and energy, of her wisdom and knowledge. Some of the best times of my life were spent in her kitchen talking about art, love and life. People were drawn to her. As Julie Moss has observed, she was “such a strong, creative and vibrant role model for so many female photographers” in a sea of male prejudice and ambivalence. What Joyce did not do is live on her memories… she was ever active, ever inquiring. She stood up for what she believed. A couple of weeks before she passed she said to me, “I don’t want to go yet, I still have so much that I want to do.” She was still raging against the dying of the light, not going gently into that good night.

But what she achieved in her truly remarkable life is a testament to her unquenchable spirit. In a journey full of determination, intelligence, exploration and love she achieved so much and touched so many. I miss her terribly.

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I am the (sublime) space where I am, that surrounds me with countless presences.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan July 2019

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Dissipation at the pub: students outside Largs Bay pub while attending N.U.A.U.S. conference, South Australia 1951 - Joyce Zerfas, Jill Warwick, Val Groves' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Dissipation at the pub: students outside Largs Bay pub while attending N.U.A.U.S. conference, South Australia 1951 – Joyce Zerfas, Jill Warwick, Val Groves
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

This photograph, showing students smoking and drinking outside the pub at Largs Bay, was published in an Adelaide newspaper. At the time this was considered to be immoral behaviour. Note the man in the background with his fingers up in a derogatory manner.

The names of the three women who have been identified are from left to right: Joyce Evans (nee Zerfas) photographer, Jill Warwick, deceased, (producer of TV programme “It Could Be You”) Val Groves, psychologist. I have been unable to identify the men. ~ Joyce Evans

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Guard Thine Honour, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Guard Thine Honour, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Ban on Communism Means Fascism, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Ban on Communism Means Fascism, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019) 'Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb' 1951

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Reduce Armaments Ban Atomic Bomb, May Day March, Flinders Street, Melbourne [pictured image-right, Professor Bernard Rechter]
1951
Gelatin silver print
From We Had Such High Hopes: Student Activism and the Peace Movement 1949-1952, A Photographic Memoir by Joyce Evans (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019)

 

 

“Making photographs that are memorable requires more than just camera, light and a story. It requires a type of harmony, unity, and an indefinable something, which I can best explain as becoming emotionally attached to the subject so that the images almost make themselves.”

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Joyce Evans

 

“Photography for me is a type of communion with my subject. Like everybody else I take photographs which have little meaning. But sometimes I sense an underlying value in the land, a group of people, a location, and then I make photograph, which is satisfying to myself. I think I would like to call that the way in which the quintessential spirit of what I am seeing has stirred me to need to make a photograph of it.

To me, I am alive, and my life and the life of everything in the world is connected. For me it is that universality that is the basis of my idea of the spiritual. I feel uncomfortable about formal organised religion and am perhaps more than a humanist, a universalist.”

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Joyce Evans

 

“Aesthetically, I enjoy the camera’s capacity to record relationships and detail, which my subconscious may perceive, but I may not fully see.

My appreciation of aesthetics goes back to when I studied painting with John Olsen at the Bakery Art School, Sydney in 1967-68. Olsen made me aware of the power of the edge of the image to relate to what was not shown in the image. My formal education was further enhanced when I did a degree in fine arts at Sydney University 1969-71. There, Dr Anton Wilhelm taught me how to read an image. My understanding of the limits and potentials of two-dimensional imagery was expounded by Professor Bernard Smith.

Informally, my knowledge of photography and my practice was refined through formative conversations with a wide range of great photographers such as Andre Kertesz, Max Dupain, Ansel Adams and Bill Henson, Julie Millowick and Linda Connor.

Each of these relationships helped me to clarify my photographic position, which is based on a search for the essence of a subject.”

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Joyce Evans

 

 

Joyce Evans. 'Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT' 2005

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT
2005

 

Joyce Evans. 'Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT' 2005

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT
2005

 

Joyce Evans. 'Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT' 2005

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT
2005

 

Joyce Evans. 'Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT' 2005

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT
2005

 

Joyce Evans. 'Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT' 2005

 

Joyce Evans (Australian, 1929-2019)
Rain Dreaming, Yuendumu, NT
2005

 

 

Joyce Evans short biography

Joyce Olga Evans is well known in Australian photography. In 1976 Joyce opened Church Street Photographic Centre, a pioneer Australian commercial gallery devoted to Photography. It showcased the best of Australian and International photographers. Joyce exhibited works by Frank Hurley, Imogen Cunningham, Bill Henson, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Julia MargretCameron, Max Dupain and many other renowned photographers – she says that they were her teachers.

Passionately dedicated to photography, she has had many solo exhibitions of both her landscapes (she photographed in the Dandenongs and Mt Martha regions in the outer Melbourne; along the Hume Highway; in the Central Desert and outback Australia, most notably Oodnadatta, Oodlawirra, Menindee, and Lake Mungo; vineyards and rural villages in the South of France; the old Jewish cemetery in the centre of Prague; and numerous others) and her portraits (she photographed Australian intelligentsia and personalities, including Marianne Baillieu; Barbara Blackman; Baron Avid von Blumenthal; Tim Burstall; Dur-e Dara; Robert Dessaix; Germaine Greer; Elena Kats-Chernin; Joan Kerr; Ellen Koshland; David Malouf; Dame Elisabeth Murdoch; Lin Onus; Jill Reichstein; Chris Wallace-Crabbe; and innumerable others) throughout Australia and Europe.

Joyce has spent two decades documenting Australia for the National Library of Australia, who are acquiring her life’s work for their permanent collection. When this acquisition is complete the Library will hold over 30,000 analogue images and 80,000 digital files. Also included are diaries and other relevant documents and files. Much of this work is destined for display on Trove, the library’s online viewing resource. She has exhibited extensively in Australia and in France and her photographs are held in many major collections. Joyce has been published widely. Her monograph Only One Kilometre was published in 2003 by Lothian Press. It detailed her many years of studying the unique qualities of the Balcombe Estuary Reserve, at Mount Martha as well as poems and articles by distinguished writers. Her work is held in many collections both locally and internationally.

Joyce Evans also plays an important educational role in Australian photography. She taught history of photography at Melbourne’s RMIT University; appointed inaugural assistant director of Waverley City Gallery (now Monash Gallery of Art), 1990-91, the first municipal public collection in Melbourne to specialise in photography; established and inaugurated a course on the History of Photography and appointed Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, 1997-2010.”

Evans worked as an honorary photographer for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Central Australia and for over ten years documented Australian country towns and events for the National Library of Australia. Important publications on Joyce Evans include a monograph Only One Kilometre (Melbourne: Lothian Press, 2003), and exhibition catalogues with essays by Alison Inglis, Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, Tim Page, Victoria Hammond, and many others.

Text from the Joyce Evans Photographer website [Online] Cited 16 June 2019

 

William Yang. 'Marcus and Joyce' 2018

 

William Yang (Australian, b. 1943)
Marcus and Joyce
2018

 

Being two photographers, the only photograph of Joyce and Marcus together, taken by another photographer William Yang.

 

Michael Silver (Australian) 'Joyce Evans' 2013

 

Michael Silver (Australian)
Joyce Evans
2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Joyce Evans standing in front of Max Dupain's 'Sunbaker' 1937' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Joyce Evans standing in front of Max Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’ 1937
2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Joyce and the dragon' 2016

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Joyce and the dragon
2016

 

 

Joyce standing in front of the fireplace at Jacques Reymond’s restaurant for the birthday of her friend Marcus Bunyan. In Chinese mythology the dragon traditionally symbolises potent and auspicious powers and also is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck for people who are worthy of it.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Beatrice' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Beatrice
1866
Albumen silver print

 

 

Joyce Evans Photographer website

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24
Oct
15

Text / Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney Part 2

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 25th October 2015

Curator: Dr Marta Weiss

 

 

The road less travelled

It was a flying visit to Sydney to see the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The trip was so very worthwhile, for I had never seen JMC’s large contact photographs “in the flesh” before, let alone over 100 vintage prints from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. They did not disappoint. This exhibition is one of the photographic highlights of the year.

When you think about it, here is one the world’s top ten photographers of all time – a woman, taking photographs within the first twenty five years of the birth of commercial photography, using rudimentary technology and chemicals – whose photographs are still up there with the greatest ever taken. Still recognisable as her own and no one else’s after all these years. That is a staggering achievement – and tells you something about the talent, tenacity and perspicacity of the women… that she possessed and illuminated such a penetrating discernment – a clarity of vision and intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight into the human condition.

Annie; ‘My first success’ (1864, below) points the way to the later development of her mature style. Although not entirely successful, the signature low depth of field and wonderful use of light are already present in this image. Compare this to Lady Adelaide Talbot (1865, below), only a year later, and you can see that her development as an artist is phenomenal. JMC pushes and pulls the face of the sitter within the image plane. In a sequence from the exhibition (enlarge the installation image, below) we have (from left to right), female in profile facing right with light from right Sappho (1865); female lower 2/3rds right with light from front above Christabel (1866); female looking at camera, soft, dark moody lighting hitting only one the side of the face and embroidered cap Zoe / Maid of Athens (1866); now a different tilt of the jaw, lighter print Beatrice (1866, below); a frontal portrait with dark background, pin sharp face and hair to the front and back of the face out of focus Julia Jackson (1867, below), then female portraits facing left, the head filling the upper left corner; looking down in three-quarter profile with light from the right, filling the frame; and then upper right, small face, with the rest falling off into darkness.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (detail)

 

There is something so magical about how JMC can frame a face, emerging from darkness, side profile, filling the frame, top lit. Soft out of focus hair with one point of focus in the image. Beautiful light. Just the most sensitive capturing of a human being, I don’t know what it is… a glimpse into another world, a ghostly world of the spirit, the soul of the living seen now before they are dead.

While it is very interesting to see her failures, or what she perceived as her failures – not so much a failure of vision but mainly a failure of technique: cracking of the plates, under development, defective unmounted impressions – presented in the exhibition, plus all her techniques for developing and amending the photograph – double printing, reverse printing, scratching onto the negative and painting on the print (all techniques later used by the Pictorialists) – it is the low depth of field, wonderful tones and the quality of the light that so impresses with her work. Her portraits have a real but very fluid and ethereal presence. Material, maternal, touch, sublime, religious, allegorical, mythological, and beautiful. She would focus her lens until she thought is was beautiful “instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

She has, of course, been seen as a precursor to Pictorialism, but personally I do not get that feeling from her photographs, even though the artists are using many of the same techniques. Her work is based on the reality of seeing beauty, whereas the Pictorialists were trying to make photography into art by emulating the techniques of etching and painting. While the form of her images owes a lot to the history of classical sculpture and painting, to Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelites, she thought her’s was already art of the highest order. She did not have to mask its content in order to imitate another medium. Others, such as the curator of the exhibition Marta Weiss, see her as a proto-modernist, precursor to the photographs of Stieglitz and Sander and I would agree. There is certainly a fundamental presence to JMC’s photographs, so that when you are looking at them, they tend to touch your soul, the eyes of some of the portraits burning right through you; while others, others have this ambiguity of meaning, of feeling, as if removed from the everyday life.

Unfortunately, her legacy and her baton has not been taken up in contemporary photography, other than through her love child Sally Mann. One of the main problems with contemporary portrait photography, perhaps any type of contemporary photography, is that anything goes. And what goes is usually linked to the photographer’s desire. It is not about the reality of the subject, but just a refraction of the desires of the photographer reflected in the subject. Many photographers today are not real photographers at all… they are just a pimp to their own ideas. There is a 100% co-relation between their vision and their work which leaves no room for ambiguity. There is no longer the interesting and lovely space between what is attempted and how the photographer would like it to be, as in JMC. Where the shortcomings are welcomed (she embraced flaws, cracks, thumb prints) and it all seems a marvellous activity. She was dedicated to the task of extracting the beauty of this ambiguity, through taking hours preparing plates, through sitting, developing and washing. She took her shortcomings and folded them back into her work so that there seems to be a type of perfection to it. Of course, there isn’t. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture. By contrast, the surface in contemporary “topographic” photography is just a paper thin reflection of the photographer themselves, nothing more.

The road to spirituality is the road less travelled. It is full of uncertainty and confusion, but only through exploring this enigma can we begin to approach some type of inner reality. Julia Margaret Cameron, in her experiments, in her dogged perseverance, was on a spiritual journey of self discovery. In Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost, he suggests Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs as the ideal music for a scene his character has written:

“Four Last Songs. For the profundity that is achieved not by complexity but by clarity and simplicity. For the purity of the sentiment about death and parting and loss. For the long melodic line spinning out and the female voice soaring and soaring. For the repose and composure and gracefulness and the intense beauty of the soaring. For the ways one is drawn into the tremendous arc of heartbreak. The composer drops all masks and, at the age of eighty-two, stands before you naked. And you dissolve.”

These words are an appropriate epithet for the effect of the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron in this year 2015, the 200th anniversary of her birth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,336

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Many thankx to the AGNSW and the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

NB: it would have been great to see more of the later work as this exhibition mainly focuses on the period 1864-1869 (probably the bulk of what is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection). Also, in the expansive, open galleries, some colour on the walls would have been good. When JMC exhibited her work it would have been on coloured walls, probably with multiple mounts of different colours as well. It would also have been nice to see some of the signatures on the work, as some of them reveal intimate facts about the sitter/theme.

 

 

When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron 1867

 

‘When … 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 upon’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Mrs. Herbert Duckworth' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Mrs. Herbert Duckworth
1872
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze. Cameron’s niece, here given her married name, once again regards the camera directly, but with an air of sadness rather than confidence. Her husband had died after just three years of marriage. Cameron inscribed one version of this photograph ‘My own cherished Niece and God Child / Julia Duckworth / a widow at 24’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Annie' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annie; ‘My first success’
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 when she received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest. Cameron made this portrait of Annie Philpot, the daughter of a local family, within a month of receiving her first camera. She inscribed some prints of it ‘My first success’ and later wrote of her excitement, ‘I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture.’

Cameron’s mentor and friend, the artist G.F. Watts wrote to Cameron, ‘Please do not send me valuable mounted copies … send me any … defective unmounted impressions, I shall be able to judge just as well & shall be just as much charmed with success & shall not feel that I am taking money from you.’ This is one of approximately 67 in the V&A’s collection that was recently discovered to have belonged to him. Many are unique, which suggests that Cameron was not fully satisfied with them. Some may seem ‘defective’ but others are enhanced by their flaws. All of them contribute to our understanding of Cameron’s working process and the photographs that did meet her standards.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 28 & 31 July 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this close-up profile, Lady Talbot gazes out of the frame with determination. Instead of a tangle of branches and leaves, the background is neutral. The focus is soft and the light coming from the right traces the sitter’s profile. This photograph looks more distinctively like the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and shows the development of her signature style.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Here Lady Adelaide Talbot appears not as herself, but as Melancholy, the personification of pensive sadness, that John Milton evoked in his poem Il Penseroso (about 1631). Draped in a shawl that hides her everyday clothing, her hands form a V on her chest, in a theatrical gesture. Cameron inscribed this print with two lines from the poem, ‘Come pensive Nun, devout and pure, / Sober, stedfast, and demure’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Christiana Fraser-Tytler' c. 1864-1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christiana Fraser-Tytler
c. 1864-1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Christiana Fraser-Tytler modelled for other Julia Margaret Cameron photographs together with her sisters. One of them, Mary, an artist and designer, later married the artist G.F. Watts. This print originally belonged to either Watts or his wife. It came from the Watts estate, which was sold after Mary’s death in 1938.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Sappho' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sappho
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

In late 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron began using a larger camera, which held a 15 x 12-inch glass negative. Early the next year she wrote to Henry Cole with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work. Cameron initiated a series of large-scale, close-up heads. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture.

This striking version of Sappho is in keeping with Cameron’s growing confidence as an artist. Mary Hillier’s classical features stand out clearly in profile while her dark hair merges with the background. The decorative blouse balances the simplicity of the upper half of the picture. Cameron was clearly pleased with the image since she printed multiple copies, despite having cracked the negative.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Christabel' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christabel
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

The title refers to a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a virtuous maiden who is put under a spell by an evil sorceress. Cameron wrote of photographs such as this, ‘when … 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 upon’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Beatrice' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Beatrice
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron based the pose, drapery, and sad expression of her model on a painting attributed to Guido Reni. The subject is the 16th-century Italian noblewoman Beatrice Cenci who was executed for arranging the murder of her abusive father. One review admired Cameron’s soft rendering of ‘the pensive sweetness of the expression of the original picture’ while another mocked her for claiming to have photographed a historical figure ‘from the life’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Julia Jackson' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Jackson
1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze.

Cameron’s good friend Anne Thackeray Ritchie recalled in 1893, ‘Sitting to her was a serious affair, and not to be lightly entered upon. We came at her summons, we trembled (or we should have trembled had we dared to do so) when the round black eye of the camera was turned upon us, we felt the consequences, what a disastrous waste of time and money and effort, might ensue from any passing quiver of emotion.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Hosanna
1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son' about 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son
about 1870
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' (detail) 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (detail)
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

Installation views of the exhibition Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron’s photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s earliest photographic subjects were family and friends, many of whom were eminent literary figures. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style. In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there centred around the artist George Frederic Watts, who lived with them. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers and collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

Cameron clothed Lady Elcho in flowing draperies to suggest a character out of Dante, author of the 14th-century poem the Divine Comedy. Cameron wears the same large, paisley-edged shawl in the portrait by her son. The fragmented female figure at the far left of the frame may have been assisting Cameron.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Many of the photographs purchased by the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) from Julia Margaret Cameron were ‘Madonna Groups’ depicting the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. Her housemaid Mary Hillier posed as the Virgin Mary so often she became known locally as ‘Mary Madonna’.  Like many of her contemporaries, Cameron was a devout Christian. As a mother of six, the motif of the Madonna and child held particular significance for her. In aspiring to make ‘High Art’, Cameron aimed to make photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive.

As in many of Cameron’s depictions of the subject, the Madonna is holding a sleeping child. This had practical advantages as the infant was less likely to move during the long exposure. It was also suggestive of death, a grim reality for many Victorian families and a reference to the Pietà, a subject in Christian art in which the Virgin Mary cradles the dead Christ.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Shadow of the Cross' August 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Shadow of the Cross
August 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

With the addition of a small wooden cross and female model in drapery, Cameron transformed a portrait of her sleeping grandson into an image of the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. The mother leaning over the child prefigures Mary mourning over the body of her son, who had died on the cross. The framed pictures and curtain in the background reveal the setting as a domestic interior.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Devotion' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Devotion
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this unusual horizontal composition, the close-up figures of the sleeping Christ child and the Madonna nearly fill the frame. The title suggests both Christian concepts and the theme of motherhood. Next to the title Cameron wrote: ‘From Life My Grand child age 2 years & 3 months’, making the image simultaneously a religious study and a family portrait.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'St. Agnes' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
St. Agnes
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

This image may have been inspired by poems by Alfred Tennyson and John Keats based on the legend that virgins dream of their future husbands on St Agnes Eve (20 January). To suggest the night, Julia Margaret Cameron printed the photograph dark and added a moon by hand. The sitter is Mary Hillier, Cameron’s housemaid and one of her ‘most beautiful and constant’ models.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Dream' 1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Dream
1869
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

In 1869, Julia Margaret Cameron wrote to Sir Henry Cole, the founding director of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) of the ‘cruel calamity … which has over taken 45 of my Gems – a honey comb crack extending over the picture appearing at any moment and beyond any power to arrest.’ Cameron blamed her ‘fatally perishable’ photographic chemicals, while members of the Photographic Society suspected the damp climate of the Isle of Wight. Today’s theory is that failure to sufficiently wash the negatives after fixing them caused the problem.

John Milton’s poem On his deceased Wife (about 1658) tells of a fleeting vision of his beloved returning to life in a dream. On this mount she included G.F. Watts’ assessment: ‘quite divine’. Cameron was particularly distraught by the crackling that befell this negative. She seemed not to be bothered, however, by the two smudged fingerprints in the lower right, which form a kind of inadvertent signature.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Henry Taylor' October 10, 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Henry Taylor
October 10, 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

When Julia Margaret Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’ Another motive was to earn money from prints of the photographs, since her family’s finances were precarious. Within her first year as a photographer she began exhibiting and selling through the London gallery Colnaghi’s. She used autographs to increase the value of some portraits.

For this portrait of her close friend, the playwright and poet Taylor, Cameron broke from her practice of photographing male heads emerging from darkness. As with some of her female heads, the sitter’s face fills the frame, while his sleeve and beard flow beyond its confines.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Charles Darwin' 1868; printed 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Charles Darwin
1868; printed 1875
Carbon print from copy negative
Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

The naturalist Charles Darwin and his family rented a cottage in Freshwater from the Camerons in the summer of 1868. By 27 July, Colnaghi’s was advertising, ‘we are glad to observe her gallery of great men enriched by a very fine portrait of Charles Darwin’. Due to the sitter’s celebrity, Cameron later had this portrait reprinted as a more stable carbon print. When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Herschel' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Herschel
April 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Herschel was an eminent scientist who made important contributions to astronomy and photography. Cameron wrote of this sitting, ‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.’

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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