24 September 2015 - 28 March 2016
We are lucky enough to have two exhibitions of the pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron opening this year to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth. The first is at the Science Museum Media Space which features the Herschel Album (1864), a sequence of 94 images which Cameron considered to be her finest work to date and which opens today. The second show will be at the V&A, opening 28th November, and will offer a retrospective of Cameron’s work and examine her relationship with the V&A’s founding director, Sir Henry Cole.
Born in Calcutta, India in 1815, Cameron is one of the most influential Victorian photographers. She didn’t take up photography until she was given a camera by her daughter at the age of 48 (she had five sons, one daughter and adopted at least 5 additional children) and had a short career of only 15 years. Within 2 years of taking up photography, though, she had sold and given her photographs to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) and in 1868, they made her the first ‘artist-in-residence’. Cameron’s portraits included her friends and family members such as Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle and her niece Julia Jackson, mother of Virginia Woolf but it was also her unconventional approach – lack of sharp focus and inclusion of technical faults – that ensured she brought emotion and energy to her portraits.
The Science Museum show (which is free) also includes rare images and objects such as the late photographs taken in Sri Lanka, her camera lens – the only surviving piece of her photographic equipment – and handwritten notes from her autobiography. It also includes the only existing print of the portrait Iago, pictured here. Go now or wait until later in the autumn when you can do a double visit to both exhibitions, but don’t miss out.