Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Julia Margaret Cameron's Women

Sifting through the shelves of photography books at my local used bookstore, I luckily came across Julia Margaret Cameron's Women by Sylvia Wolf.  Cameron created her portraits in the 19th century, blazing a trail for future portrait photographers, both men and women.  This book was my introduction to her work and now I am a great admirer.  

Here are some of the most interesting tidbits from the text.

On women as portrait subjects:

...contemporary portrait photography, commercial studios strive to generate images of women that say, "I'm fun.  I'm friendly.  I'm enjoying life and will help you enjoy it, too."

If Cameron's portraits of women convey a message, it's "I'm ready for the worst.  I have resources that can be brought to bear on the tragedies I know lie ahead of me, that lie ahead of every woman who lives and loves other creatures who are mortal."

On inspiration and culture:

She had the words of Romantic poets in her head as we might has the lyrics of songs by the Beatles.

If we cannot reproduce her literary culture, if our minds' mansions are furnished, instead of with stanzas by Milton and Shakespeare, with episodes of favorite television shows, can we understand or fully respond to her photographs?

On personal photographic style:

"When focussing 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 upon," she wrote.

But what is style except an embodiment of the way an artist sees, the distinctive angle, distance, and focus at which the world looks right to her.

After a turn through Julia Margaret Cameron's Women, I am always ready to grab an old camera, a roll of B&W film and a female friend to play portrait studio.

As a side note, I suppose this would be my first post as part of the Women Writers Reading Group of Le project d'amour.  I have been reading so many books by women, I want to write at least a quick bit about each as I go along.

{Top photo mine with Rolleiflex, final three photos by Julia Margaret Cameron}