Julia Margaret Cameron. Pioneer in recognizing photography as an art form

Julia Margaret Cameron. Pioneer in recognizing photography as an art form

By In Exhibition, Highlights On 6 March, 2015

Fundación MAPFRE presents an ambitious retrospective dedicated to the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. The exhibition can be visited from March 17 to May 15, 2016 in the Bárbara de Braganza exhibition hall, Madrid (Bárbara de Braganza, 13).

Peace. 1864. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Julia Margaret Cameron (Calcutta, 1815 – Ceylon, 1879) was undoubtedly one of the most important, innovative figures of 19th century photography.

Famous for the intensity of her portraits, those she asked to pose as models were family members, servants and friends, including some of the most important poets, writers and artists of the time. Her photographs broke with the established rules: they were deliberately unfocused and often included imperfections, scratches, stains and other traces of the creative process. Throughout her life, Cameron was criticized by her contemporaries for her unconventional techniques, but was also praised for the beauty of her work and her conception of photography as an art form.

Born into an aristocratic family, Cameron was educated mainly in France. In 1848, together with her husband Charles Hay Cameron, she moved to England, where they lived until 1875 and where most of her photographic career took place. She spent her latter years in Ceylon, where she died in 1879.

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Cameron initiated her photographic career at the age of 48, when her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera to overcome the tedium of her daily life in Freshwater, a small village on the Isle of Wight. She immediately threw herself into photography with boundless energy and dedication; in barely two years she had already sold some of her work and donated some of her photos to the South Kensington Museum (currently known as the Victoria and Albert Museum).

Mrs. Herbert Duckworth. 1872. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Sappho. 1865. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Whisper of the Muse. 1865. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Annie. 1864. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

(Portraits, groups of Madonnas and pictorial Fantasies were the preferred central themes of her photographic oeuvre)

Champion of photography as an art, Cameron said: “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the Real and the Ideal, and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and Beauty.”

The exhibition comprises more than 100 photographs that offer visitors a complete overview of her work and insight into this English photographer’s keen eye.

Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, with the collaboration of Fundación MAPFRE, the exhibition has been curated by Marta Weiss, curator of photography at the said museum.


Coinciding with the exhibition, Fundación MAPFRE is to publish a complete monographic catalog that will become a reference work on the photographer in our country. It consists of scientific essays by Marta Weiss and Juan Naranjo, accompanied by a documentary appendix which includes some of the correspondence between Cameron and Henry Cole.

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