The vision of Julia Margaret Cameron

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I clearly remember the day I first saw a picture by British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. It was like a hallucination. A new world opened to me and I felt at home and very comfortable with her photographs. She had a dramatized vision of the world, a contrasted language that was so moving and so inspiring. I must say that discovering her body of work, her story as well as her values as a photographer motivated me to also pursue photography.

“My aspirations are to ennoble photography and to secure for it the character and uses of high art by combining the real and ideal and sacrificing nothing of the truth by all possible devotion to poetry and beauty.” — Julia Margaret Cameron

Ms Cameron started photography at the age of 46 –my age today— when her daughter offered her a camera. This is an interesting in-between age when you have a better understanding of who you are, what your values and your vision of the world are. I can feel that in her imagery. Her main sources of inspiration were painters like Raphael and Michelangelo, and sculptures like the Elgin marbles on show in London.

I can sense she was a strong and fierce woman in a sector dominated by men. Active during the early days of photography in the 1850s, she portrayed the people around her they were icons. The emotional and physical bonds between her and the sitters are palpable. 

She loved the accidents during the developing process of her photos. She said these were part of the picture. Many criticised her at that time arguing that these perceived mistakes were due to her lack of professionalism. She famously responded to one of her critics saying that this was the “Alibi for a failed imagination”.

Julia Margaret Cameron challenged aesthetic norms. She wanted to portray life with its defects in her images.