From Publishers Weekly
Victorian mise-en-scene photographer Cameron (1815-1879) pronounced her aspirations grandly: "to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to poetry and beauty." Julian Cox, an assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, has plumbed the world's collections to assemble this catalogue raisonn, and his labors help Cameron's art fulfill that ambition. As a book it is little short of revelatory. Cameron's signature children-as-angels, women-as-Madonnas and other spiritually charged portraits are here in full-page and thumbnail sepia prints (with full provenance and descriptions), and the book follows Cameron's own preferences for classifying her work, including "Portraits," "Madonna Groups" and "Fancy Subjects for Pictorial Effect." But in an ingenious move, Cox groups multiple portraits of the same sitter, taken at different points in Cameron's career, on the same pages, so that Cameron's mysteriously serene men, women and children emerge as actual human beings: side by side photos of the sitter Mary Hillier as Psyche, Sappho, Clio and St. Agnes betray something of Hillier's own nature. No less astonishing are Cameron's photos from the period at the end of her life when she followed her husband to a posting in Ceylon, with shots of the native people tinged with colonialism's gaze-one that seems eerily similar to the beatific shots. Samples of Cameron's letters, biographical sketches of her subjects, sources of inspiration, essays by Cox and Ford (founder of the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television) make up the supporting material. This book is a necessary expense for any Victorianist or early photography buff.
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Victorian-era, Calcutta-born photographer Cameron was well traveled and well connected; steeped in religion, literature, art, and science; and a wife and mother of six in her forties when she began taking photographs at a furious pace after her family settled in England. She photographed the famous and the unknown with equal respect and lyricism, especially women and children (including her niece, Julia Jackson, Virginia Woolf's beautiful mother, and Alice Liddell, for whom Charles Dodgson wrote Alice in Wonderland
), creating the dramatic vignettes and portraits so gloriously reproduced and documented in this monumental retrospective volume. Cox, assistant curator of photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Ford, head of the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, consider Cameron's "single-minded intensity and idealism" in detailed and animated discussions of her astonishing oeuvre of more than 1,200 ravishing images. Combining aesthetic, technical, and biographical elements in their meticulously researched discussion of her success in mastering a devilishly difficult new medium and overcoming gender-related obstacles to become an artist of enduring significance, they thoroughly and ardently chronicle every aspect of Cameron's extraordinary life, art, and legacy. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved