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Julia and Charles Norman, by Julia Margaret Cameron, M197101090019


Julia and Charles Norman, by Julia Margaret Cameron, M197101090019



Julia and Charles Norman, albumen print, 22.5 x 21.0 cm. (arched and trimmed).

The gift of the camera came to her in December 1863, at a moment when her husband was away, her sons were at boarding school, and her daughter had married and moved away. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour... it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.” wrote Cameron - forty-eight, a mother of six, deeply religious, well-read, eccentric friend of many of Victorian England’s greatest minds. “I began with no knowledge of the art... I did not know where to place my dark box, how to focus my sitter, and my first picture I effaced to my consternation by rubbing my hand over the filmy side of the glass.” Cameron had no interest in establishing a commercial studio. Instead, she enlisted friends, family, and servants, costuming them. Within eighteen months she had sold eighty prints to the Victoria and Albert Museum, established a studio in two of its rooms, and made arrangements with the West End printseller to publish and sell her photographs. In a dozen years of work, effectively ended by the Camerons’ departure for Ceylon's family plantations in 1875, she produced about 900 mesmerizing works, that remain among the most highly admired of Victorian photographs.

She was born in Calcutta, and after establishing herself among the Anglo-Indian upper-class, she moved to London where she made connections with the cultural elite. She then formed her own literary salon in the seaside village of Freshwater, Isle of Wight. Cameron took up photography at the age of 48, after her daughter gave her a camera as a present. She quickly produced a large body of portraits, and created allegorical images inspired by tableaux vivants, theatre, 15th-century Italian painters, and contemporary artists. She gathered much of her work in albums, including The Norman Album. She took around 900 photographs over a 12-year period. Cameron's work was contentious in her own time. Critics derided her softly focused and unrefined images, and considered her illustrative photographs amateurish. However, her portraits of artists and scientists such as Henry Taylor, Charles Darwin, and Sir John Herschel have been consistently praised. Her images have been described as "extraordinarily powerful" and "wholly original", and she has been credited with producing the first close-ups in the medium.





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