Thursday, April 19, 2007
Julia Margaret Cameron
In some ways, portraiture has to be one of the hardest forms of photography to do well. Although like most fields of photography it has a small number who stand out from the crowd and probably always will, August Sander, Richard Avedon (though I hesitate slightly there) and Julia Margaret Cameron. Of the many contemporary portraitists, I wonder that perhaps only Rineke Dijkstra and Sally Mann can come close to being mentioned in the same breath.
Cameron was born in India in 1815 but didn't begin photographing until she was nearly 50. That she accomplished what she did in only about 12 years at the end of her life makes her achievement - in these the early years of photography's existence - even more astonishing.
While modern viewers may sometimes have some trouble with her (at the time very popular) Victorian allegories, her portraits of ordinary men and women, along with those of the like of Herschel and Tennyson, Browning and Darwin often come across as very modern. Their directness and simplicity is attention stopping. Her eye for a sort of casual and yet often intensebeauty is unerring. The subjects (even as allegory) are never less than fully human.
Posted by tim atherton at 2:43 p.m.