Julia Margaret Cameron, 'St Agnes'

Julia Margaret Cameron, 'St Agnes'

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
'St Agnes'
Portrait of Mary Anne Hillier 
Britain
About 1864-79
Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative
Width 21.3 cm x heigth 26.7 cm
Museum no. 44.75

The Photograph

Cameron used collodion negatives and her images have an out-of-focus quality. She was criticised by some of her contemporaries for what they considered the technical failure of her work given that the collodion negative could produce images of great clarity and detail. The appearance of her work, however, was intentional.

'When focussing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.' Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Annals to my Glass House', 1874

Her exposure times of three to seven minutes compounded the soft focussing of her images as her subjects were likely to move during that time.

The Photographer

In 1863 Julia Margaret Cameron's daughter (Julia) and her son-in-law had given her a camera and she had been taught basic photographic skills by the photographer and painter David Wilkie Wynfield. Despite the criticism of her techniques, the sensuous quality and the mood she created in her images were recognised. At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867 her work was shown next to photographs by Henry Peach Robinson and Oscar Rejlander, which endorsed an elevated position for Cameron's work.

Cameron's early work concentrated on allegorical and religious themes. By 1866 she was producing her best known work, which was portraiture.

In the early 1870s her photographs were used as illustrations of literary works including Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' (1874-5). The Camerons moved to Ceylon in 1875, where she produced a few works and where she died in 1879.

 

This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13.