Cameron chose allegory as her primary artistic device because it allowed her to use popular iconography to convey a latent or secondary meaning. In her photographs, a primary meaning is first conveyed by the title of the image; then, social and political ideas that the artist implanted in the image begin to emerge, contributing to and commenting on the contemporary cultural, religious and political debates of the time. Cameron used the term 'fancy subjects' to embed these moral, intellectual and political narratives in her photographs. This book reconnects her to the prominent minds in her circle who influenced her thinking, including Benjamin Jowett, George Grote and Henry Taylor, and demonstrates her awareness and responsiveness to popular graphic art, including textiles and wall paper, book illustrations and engravings from period folios, cartoons from Punch and line drawings from the Illustrated London News, cabinet photographs and autotype prints.
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Manchester University Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1784993174
- ISBN-13: 978-1784993177
The historical and the devotional were one to Mrs. Cameron. Thus in her work we find the embodiment of the ideas of Keble and Newman So it was that Mrs. Cameron's treatment of her friends, her servants, her acquaintances, her heroes, and those whom she snatched off the streets like any scout for a model agency had but one aim-to show their divine and superhuman aspect She clearly regarded her photographs as theophanies, manifestations of God in terms of living persons-both indexes and icons of the true, the good, and the beautiful.
I have learned to view Mrs. Cameron's albumen prints in a completely different light thanks to author and art historian, Jeff Rosen. Personally, I tend to focus on the straight, non-thematical albumen prints of the friends of Julia Margaret Cameron instead of the allegory behind the photograph.
One of the terrific highlights of 'Fancy subjects' is the in depth knowledge and research Jeff Rosen has done. He has gone through The Getty Museum's catalogue raisonné of Cameron's works focusing on her allegorical subjective albumen prints with the aim of providing the reader with a religious, cultural, and historical background. It was wonderful reading the seven chapters of the book some focused on thematic storyline while others focused on poets and their works like Alfred Tennyson and his Idylls of the King being the most famous and recognizable.
If you are not into allegory specifically, maybe you are curious about the personal life of photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)? Well, Jeff Rosen includes drawings, sketches and correspondence excerpts from her husband, Charles Hay Cameron. The mysterious and not well known final years of their personal lives (1875-1880) are discussed. Specifically, the travel from Ceylon to Isle of Wight and the career woes of her husband bring some information to view in a different way. You see them more as humanized, a married couple and parents of six children who also run coffee plantations.
This is a comprehensive and densely written compendium but a must for all photography and poetry lovers. I hope everyone will read it to enjoy the photographs and the stories behind them.
Thank you to Oxford University Press in the U.S. for sending me a beautiful hardcover edition review copy that is proudly on my research shelf.
Julia Margaret Cameron's 'Fancy subjects' is out now in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK
You can pre-order your copy now, Amazon US