15 March 2010

A Victorian Romantic

I have discovered another heroine. I shall add her to my collection. The collection of heroines I keep in a box. It's a bit like those music boxes with the tiny rotating ballerinas twirling on a mini pedestal, but each time I open it there is a different one of my heroines doing whatever they do best to the lyrical tones of 'I wisssshh I could be yooooouu'.

In this particular case, the heroine will be taking photographs as she twirls to the camera flash.

Julia Margaret Cameron was an ugly duckling. Her mother was an aristocratic French belle, and her sisters were nick-named things like 'Beauty' and 'Dash'. She was dubbed 'Talent'. Cutting. But she lived up to this label with flair.

Born in Calcutta and educated in France, she chose to live on the Isle of Wight from 1860 onwards. Then, aged 48, she was given a camera.

Her photographs are like Pre-Raphaelite paintings, all soft focus and fairy tales. She created a series of Arthurian scenes, with many costumes and limp poses and far-away looks. Religion and literature were her inspiration, and her models dressed up and posed in her chicken shed. Feathered angel wings amongst the poultry. She used ordinary people as her models, 'arresting' them in order to make them pose for her creations. Her Arthur was a strapping young chap who made deliveries on the Isle, and during the Idylls of the King photographic process the locals became impatient due to him being kept in his Arthur guise for hours on end.
The photographs are beautiful. They are over the top, romantic, of another era, yet she believed in them as ART. Rightfully so.

Tennyson was a neighbour of hers. They chatted over cups of sugar (I hope). She created photographic portraits of him, Darwin, Browning, Millais, Burne-Jones, William Rossetti, Ellen Terry - all greats of the age, all of romantic sensibilities. And all magically made immortal and ethereal by her intentionally out-of-focus lens.

And, as if she couldn't be esteemed any higher or be any more AWESOME in my eyes, she was the great-aunt of Virginia Woolf.
I would love to escape to her Isle of Wight world. I could do this through reading Woolf's comic slip of a play Freshwater. Or by simply gazing into her photographs.


Ma said...

You should do a day trip to the Isle of Wight - you have a great day out.

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