Julia Jackson, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1867, albumen print from wet collodion glass negative. Museum no. PH.361-1981
Julia Margaret Cameron: About the Exhibition
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
28 November 2015 - 21 February 2016
‘I write to ask you if you will… exhibit at the South Kensington Museum a set of Prints of my late series of Photographs that I intend should electrify you with delight and startle the world’
– Julia Margaret Cameron to Henry Cole, 21 February 1866
To mark the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century, the V&A will showcase more than 100 of her photographs from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition will offer a retrospective of Cameron’s work and examine her relationship with the V&A’s founding director, Sir Henry Cole, who in 1865 presented her first museum exhibition and the only one during her lifetime.
Cameron is one of the most celebrated women in the history of photography. She began her photographic career when she received her first camera as a gift from her daughter at the age of 48, and quickly and energetically devoted herself to the art of photography. Within two years Cameron had sold and given her photographs to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) and in 1868, the Museum granted her the use of two rooms as a portrait studio.
150 years after first exhibiting her work, the V&A will present highlights of Cameron’s output, including original prints acquired directly from the artist and a selection of her letters to Henry Cole. Best known for her powerful portraits, Cameron also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories. The exhibition will feature a variety of photographic subjects, which Cameron described as ‘Portraits’, ‘Madonna groups’, and ‘Fancy Subjects for Pictorial Effect’.Cameron’s photographs were highly innovative: intentionally out-of-focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of her process. In her lifetime, Cameron was criticised for her unconventional techniques, but also appreciated for the beauty of her compositions and her conviction that photography was an art form.