The portfolio of the exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, first retrospective in Paris in almost forty years devoted to the famous Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, pioneer of the photographic portrait, presents a selection of some forty of her landmark photographs, from her earliest experiments to her allegorical, historically-inspired and multi-character literary compositions, as well as an impressive gallery of portraits of her contemporaries.
The exhibition that this album accompanies draws mainly on the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which, under its former name of South Kensington Museum, was a champion of Julia Margaret Cameron's work, buying numerous prints from her during the 1860s. This historic collection has since been enriched by the addition of the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, as a result of which the Victoria and Albert Museum possesses the largest collection of works by Julia Margaret Cameron in the world.
Published on the occasion of the eponymous exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, from October 2023 to January 2024.
Few 19th-century photographers have attracted as much attention as Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879). Widely criticised during her lifetime for the freedom with which she responded to the photographic conventions of her time, and at the same time admired for the inspired character of her portraits, Cameron is now celebrated for her ground-breaking contributions to photography. A pioneer of the close up who frequently adopted soft focus, she borrowed many of her subjects from religion, literature and history, leaving behind an exceptional body of work that is unlike any other.
Writer Virginia Woolf
, her grand-niece, spoke of Julia Margaret Cameron's "indomitable vitality". Born in Kolkata as Julia Margaret Pattle, the daughter of a French aristocrat who lived in Pondicherry and an English official in the Bengal civil service, she was brought up in France and India. She moved to England in 1848 when her husband retired from British colonial service. They settled on the Isle of Wight, where they surrounded themselves with writers and artists while maintaining connections with friends and family throughout the British Empire.
Cameron's photographic career was brief but intense. She received her first camera in 1863, at the age of 48, and immediately began photographing her circle, from family and servants to famous neighbours and village locals. She was eccentric, generous and bossy, and her commitment to her art impressed all who met and posed for her. Her work, which she divided into three categories, "portraits", "Madonnas" and "subjects of the imagination", was exhibited in Great Britain and abroad, sold commercially and sent by her to relations, friends and mentors. By the time she returned to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) 12 years later, she had produced hundreds of images and written a short autobiographical text, Annals of my Glass House
, from which several of the quotations in the exhibition are taken.