Dreamy Victorian Portraiture by Julia Margaret Cameron

AlexPhotography, Portraits

Dreamy Victorian Portraiture by Julia Margaret Cameron.

In 1863 at the age of 48, Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera and immediately formed a passion for it, soon joining the photographic societies of London and Scotland. She primarily chose to photograph portraits and utilized the motion blur of longer exposures and carefully guided light to create her highly stylized images. Many of her photographs referenced religious iconography with many photographic representations of angels and the Virgin Mary, as well as visual references to mythology and Renaissance painting. “I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me,” said Cameron, “and at length the longing has been satisfied.”

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. The showing of thirty-five works is drawn entirely from the Metropolitan’s rich collection, including major works from the Rubel Collection acquired in 1997 and the Gilman Collection acquired in 2005.

Cameron’s unorthodox photographic methods and techniques, although widely panned by contemporaries at the time, perfectly suited her moody and romantic portraits. She made albumen-silver prints from wet collodion glass plate negatives, but instead of rendering subjects with perfect resolution and detail, the Victorian photographer experimented with motion blur, long exposures, soft focus, and carefully directed light. Because of these techniques, the movements of the subjects were captured in the images, instilling them with an incredible sense of life and and essence. “I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me,” said Cameron, “and at length the longing has been satisfied.”

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