My son is working on a research project about how the invention of photography changed the world. Obviously, we all know the impact it has made on the world. Without photography we would only be able to hear stories about events, people, places, and we would never see them for our own eyes. Without photography there would be no documentation of wars, famine, and poverty. We would be able to shut our eyes to the world around us and see only that to where we are born and where we live.
I was reading through some of the books he had chosen for his project. I couldn’t put a few of them down for a few hours.
One in particular told the story of Julia Margaret Cameron and her journey into photography and how it quickly consumed her life and became her great love. She was 48 years old when she got her first camera. She spent a year learning to use the camera and lens and learning to perfect her art in the darkroom where she created her final images.
She was no different from photographers I know today who are obsessive about their work and their vision. She worked to learn her craft and to find her style. Her style may not have been appreciated in her time, but certainly today she is very appreciated. She was a portrait photographer who loved very close crops of her subjects. She would have them sit for as long as it took for her to get the perfect exposure. Long exposure time now is nothing compared to what she had her subjects endure….hours of sitting.
The thing that struck me most about Julie was that her favorite subject was, of course, her very own children. She also had neighbors that she photographed and friends of her neighbors. She photographed Charles Darwin and Alfred Lord Tennyson. She registered her images with the copyright office and because of her works we have images, not just paintings or sketches, of some very influential people from her era.
She was finding her passion and living her dream. Julia Margaret Cameron is proof to all of us that you are never too old to pursue the things that make you happy. You are never too old to find out who you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing. She also showed us that there is no one way to create art. Her “fancy portraits” are indeed works of art.