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"Victorian Photographs: Julia Margaret Cameron - Annals of My Glass House"
2001-11-30 until 2002-02-03
National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne, VI, AU Australia

Julia Margaret Cameron is today recognised as one of the great photographers in the history of the medium and is among the outstanding women artists of the nineteenth century. The National Gallery of Victoria is proud to be the only Australian venue for this major exhibition of sixty of Cameron's photographs drawn from the Michael and Jane Wilson Collection in London.

In her fragmentary autobiography Annals of My Glass House, Julia Margaret Cameron records that she took her first successful photograph in January 1864. She was forty-nine years old when she began her remarkable career as a photographer.

Julia Margaret Cameron (nee Pattle) was born in 1815 in Calcutta, India. After the death of her parents, James and Adeline Pattle, Julia and her six sisters went to live with their grandmother in Versailles, France where they were educated. The Pattle sisters eventually settled in England where individually they attracted some of the periodís leading artists, writers and poets to their salons and were well known for the often flamboyant nature of these gatherings.

In 1838, Julia married Charles Hay Cameron, a jurist and member of the Law Commission stationed in Calcutta. Charles Cameron was twenty years her senior and, after his retirement, the couple moved to 'Dimbola Lodge' in Freshwater, Isle of Wight near to the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson's home. Charles continued to manage his business interests in Ceylon, leaving his wife alone for extended periods. In 1864, at the age of forty-nine, Cameronís daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera as a way to help occupy her time.

Cameron approached photography with great enthusiasm and passion, converting an old coalhouse at Dimbola into a darkroom and a glass chicken shed into a studio with windows that allowed her to regulate the light source. She was largely self-taught and developed an original approach to the medium, taking photographs slightly out of focus to emphasise the spiritual and psychological dimensions of her sitters, and to create 'High Art' as opposed to sharply focused documentary photographs.

Cameron was a determined promoter of her own work and, in 1865, she held the first one person exhibition of her photographs at Colnaghis in London and presented a folio of her work to the British Museum. During the late 1860s she produced many of the portraits of 'famous men and fair women' for which she has become recognised. In 1874, Tennyson commissioned Cameron to produce a major series of photographs to illustrate his epic poem, Idylls of the King and Other Poems. The following year the Cameron's moved to Ceylon where Julia died in 1879.

Julia Margaret CAMERON
British, 1815Ė79
A study for the Cenci (Kate Keown), 1868
albumen silver photograph
27.0 x 35.2cm
The Wilson Centre for Photography

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