Photo Histories
The Photographers' History of Photography
 
Poster of a Julia Margaret Cameron photo of Julia Jackson taken in 1867, V&A, London, 2015. Photo © Graham Harrison.

Julia Jackson, the mother of Virginia Wolf, fearlessly returns the camera's gaze - A detail of a large poster at the entrance to the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the V&A in 2015. Text and photos © Graham Harrison.

Julia Margaret Cameron and Britain’s Photographic Heritage

Graham Harrison looks at the life and work of Julia Margaret Cameron and the history of an unsettled and priceless collection of work which includes some of her finest photographs, that seems set to make a controversial move from the National Media Museum at Bradford to the V&A in London.

“It would have been well had the fair artist paid some attention to the mechanical portion of our art-science. A piece of the collodion torn off the shoulders of Agnes… a broad fringe of stain three inches in length over the arm of James Spedding; brilliant comets flashing across Alfred Tennyson; tears chasing each other down the cheeks, but the brows, the arms, the noses, and the backgrounds of many of her best-arranged subjects.” The British Journal of Photography, 19 May 1865.

“One, I think. Ask Colin Ford,” said Marta Weiss, curator of photographs at the V&A, when asked how many of Julia Margaret Cameron’s negatives survive to this day. “Two, that I know of,” responded Ford, the former Head of the National Media Museum at Bradford and a world expert on Cameron. [1]

In the autumn and winter of 2015-16 an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum and another across the road at the Media Space at the Science Museum, celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of the Victorian portrait photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

The V&A also hosted a study day on Cameron in January 2016 and a symposium on her influences was convened at Oxford University the following week. As fresh light was shed on Cameron’s life and work and on the contexts in which her revolutionary approach to photography developed, a controversial decision about the move of a vital and very large part of Britain’s photographic heritage, including some of Cameron’s finest prints, was about to be announced.

Colin Ford: “A pivotal figure in embracing photography in Britain” at ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: Victorian networks, empire and the history of photography today’, a one-day symposium convened at Oxford in January 2016. Photo © Graham Harrison.

THE HERSCHEL ALBUM

Dynamite, antiseptic, Tolstoy, Marx, Dickens and Alice in Wonderland. Add the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron and you have an idea of what was happening in the 1860s.

Just eleven months after taking up the far-from-straightforward wet collodion process in December 1863, Julia Cameron presented her friend Sir John Herschel with an album of her prints. Three years later she added to the album some of the most remarkable portraits of the Victorian age. [2]

It was thanks to the efforts of Colin Ford that the Herschel Album was saved for the nation in the winter of 1974. The album had been sold at auction to an American buyer for £52,000, a world record price for a photographic work. When an export licence was refused for a limited period to allow for the funds to the raised in the UK, Ford organised a successful campaign which received 4,000 donations, principally from the general public. The National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) contributed £5,000 as did Kodak who helped with a further £5,000 at the last minute. [3] [4] [5]

The refusal of the export licence meant the album became the first photographic work anywhere in the world to be legally recognised as part of a nation’s heritage, a landmark decision in the classification of photography as art.

Colin Ford, described as “A pivotal figure in embracing photography in Britain” by Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, was then Keeper of Film and Photography at the National Portrait Gallery under Roy Strong. For nine years Ford had argued with others for a national museum of photography.

In 1983 his efforts were rewarded when he was appointed Head of the new National Museum of Photography, Film and Television at Bradford. Amongst the museum’s primary acquisitions was the wonderful Herschel Album donated by the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery.

In 1988 the NMPFT was named museum of the year. In 1989 the idea that the museum could also be a research institute was realised when the Hungarian-born founder of Focal Press, Adnor Kraszna-Krausz left his extensive personal archive and library to the museum.

Francis Hodgson, formerly of the FT and now a professor in the culture of photography, has written that under Colin Ford the Bradford museum “really was the national museum of photography.” After Ford left in 1992 it became “diluted”, said Hodgson. [6]

The tenure of Amanda Nevill, NMPFT Director from 1994 to 2003, was considered a success as visitor numbers reached the one million mark and the museum collected a number of awards, but the emphasis of the museum was edging away from still photography.

When the NMPFT was renamed National Media Museum in December 2006, the museum’s immediate identification with photography was lost. The Guardian asked recently, “What does ‘media’ mean when a museum’s concerned?” while the Daily Telegraph reported, “People didn’t know quite what to expect from a ‘media’ museum, and were confused by the split-personality nature of the exhibits when they got there”.

In February 2016 the museum’s director, Jo Quinton-Tulloch, who in April 2013 had told the Guardian she wanted “to inspire the next generation of photographers and film makers” was on a new mission, to “concentrate on inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers”.

Science, technology, engineering and maths were abbreviated to STEM, and the museum’s new focus, was to be “heralded by a new £1.5 million interactive light and sound gallery due to open in March 2017”, readers of the NMM web site were told.

The mission-change was determined by continuing cuts in government funding which had seen the museum narrowly avoid closure just months after Quinton-Tulloch made her commitment to photographers and film makers.

What attracted the headlines was the announcement that around 400,000 objects including the Royal Photographic Society Collection, would be transferred from the Science Museum’s National Photography Collection to the V&A in London.

The move reinforced the STEM agenda at the NMM, the museum said, and “represents a reunion for some of the images, which were once part of a single collection at the 19th century South Kensington Museum before its split into the Science Museum and the V&A.”

Responding to what appeared to be a fait accompli, eighty-three prominent figures in the arts, including Colin Ford, wrote to the Times and Guardian calling for the decision to be reversed. An online petition Stop the cultural asset stripping of Bradford’s National Media Museum attracted nearly 28,000 signatures.

On BBC Radio Four on 10 March, Ford said he was appalled that there would no longer be a national museum of photography in Britain. “They want to separate the art of photography from the science and technology of photography and that seems to me a huge error,” said Ford, who’s success at Bradford lay in bringing the two together. [7]

The idea to move the collection had been bubbling away behind the scenes for a year or more during which time just two London museums, the V&A and the Tate, the Guardian revealed, were asked to submit bids. Towards the end of this period the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibitions opened in London and two Cameron-inspired events were held. Colin Ford was among the speakers at both of the events.

At Julia Margaret Cameron at 200, a one-day conference presenting new research on Cameron hosted by the V&A on 15 January, Ford talked in detail about the Herschel Album to Martin Barnes, the museum’s Senior Curator of Photographs.

At Julia Margaret Cameron, Victorian Networks, Empire and the History of Photography Today in Oxford the following week, Ford explained how the response to Cameron’s work had fluctuated over time. The two London exhibitions placed emphasis on her theatrical pictures, said Ford, which had not been given so much attention since the 1870s.

As early as 1836, when the the young artist-to-be Julia Margaret Cameron met the great astronomer, scientist and photographic pioneer, Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope, the art and science of photography appeared destined to be a marriage made in heaven. In 1842 Herschel introduced Cameron to the new medium of photography by letter and became her advisor and critic on photographic matters when she took up the medium over twenty years later.

Her thank you to Herschel for his enduring friendship was the Herschel Album.

The cracks didn’t really matter: V&A curator of photographs Marta Weiss explains how Cameron shunned photographic convention to creative effect at Julia Margaret Cameron at 200 at the V&A in January 2106. Photo © Graham Harrison.

REFERENCE

An understanding of Cameron the photographer can be gained from her unfinished autobiography, Annals of My Glasshouse. For a sense of Cameron’s eccentricity and forceful personality look to the writings and reminiscences of her friend, Anne Thackeray, daughter of the novelist William Makepiece Thackeray, and to the diaries of the Irish poet William Allingham.

In Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women (1926), Cameron’s great-niece Virginia Wolf is drawn to the array of characters who peopled Cameron’s life while the artist Roger Fry examines her importance as a portraitist. Wolf also wrote a “pretty terrible” play called Freshwater, which is about Cameron, the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and the artist George Frederic Watts.

For many years, however, the standard text on Mrs Cameron was Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work by the photographic historian Helmut Gernsheim, first published in 1948. If you mention Gernsheim to a curator or academic today you’ll elicit an intake of breath and a slightly pained expression. Look to his wife Alison, they say, she was the real historian, read her research not his self-promotion.

However, it was Helmut Gernsheim who pushed for a national museum of photography in Britain in the early 1950s, and with their prodigious writing, collecting and research, it was the Gernsheims who “drew the map” of photographic history, Colin Ford said at the V&A conference in January.

Jump forward nearly seventy years from the publication of the Gernsheim book and the events marking Cameron’s bicentenary in London and Oxford in 2015-16 revealed a more nuanced understanding of the religious, colonial and artistic contexts of her work. There was also a reminder of the extraordinary energy this mother of six employed in everything she undertook, not just in her photography but in befriending and maintaining friendships with just about everyone of note in mid-Victorian England.

Julia concentrated her attention especially on poets, artists and writers, although not exclusively, writing three hundred letters a month and dispatching six or more telegrams each day. She would shower her friends and acquaintances with gifts and send them albums to promote herself and shamelessly ask them to mention her name in The Times, the newspaper of record. This was not without reason.

“She knows a beautiful head when she sees it – a very rare faculty,” wrote a sympathetic critic in Macmillan Magazine in 1866. “And her position in literary and aristocratic society gives her the pick of the most beautiful and intellectual heads in the world.”

PATTLEDOM

Julia Margaret Pattle was born at Garden Reach, Calcutta on 11 June 1815, the second of eight surviving daughters of James Pattle, an official in the East India Company, and Adeline de l’Etang, a descendent of the French aristocracy with a hint of Bengali blood.

The Pattle sisters were famous for their high-handedness and good looks and for their marriages to distinguished older men. Thackeray, who met them during their education in Paris, fell in love with each of them a little and is credited with christening their close-knit, Bengali-speaking circle, ‘Pattledom’. [8]

It is possible that Sir John Herschel introduced Julia to her future husband, the scholar and reformist lawyer Charles Hay Cameron at the Cape of Good Hope in 1836. Both Julia and Charles were convalescing after illness.

Two years later the couple married in Calcutta Cathedral. Charles was twenty years her senior and had fathered two illegitimate children in England but he indulged Julia’s whims and eccentricities and she adored him. She bore her husband five sons and a daughter and fifteen months after she died, in Ceylon on 26 January 1879, he too passed away and was buried beside her in a church cemetery near his ailing coffee estates. They had been married for forty years. [9]

TO ENGLAND

A descendent of the Earls of Erroll, Charles Cameron had worked in Ceylon as a lawyer to the Commission of Enquiry into the Eastern Colonies and would later purchase coffee estates in the Dimbula and Dikoya valleys on the island. He became a member of the ruling Council of India, a body subordinate only to the Crown and the Directors of the East India Company.

According to Cecil Beaton in The Magic Image (1975), the absence of the governor-general’s wife meant Julia “queened it” as the first lady of Anglo-Indian society. [10]

Beaton also stated that Julia developed a mutual dislike of her suburban neighbours when the couple moved to England on Charles’ retirement in 1848. [11]

More to Cameron’s liking were the gatherings of artists and writers at Little Holland House, the secluded Kensington home of her sister Sara and husband Henry Thoby Prinsep, a former East India Company director. It was here that Julia met many of her future subjects and mixed with those she knew already, including Charles’ friend Sir Henry Taylor who had introduced the Cameron’s to the Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson.

They also met the Prinsep’s long-term house-guest, the painter George Frederic Watts who became Mrs Cameron’s artistic mentor.

At the conference Julia Margaret Cameron at 200, at the V&A in January, Watts’ biographer Barbara Bryant revealed the extent to which the painter’s creative explorations permeated life at Little Holland House, where it was said to be “always Sunday afternoon”. [12]

Photographic sessions would take place in the large mature garden where poses and drapery were arranged and then photographed to produce reference images for Watts to use when he worked on studio paintings and frescoes.

Among the photographers taking part were Cameron’s brother-in-law, Charles Viscount Eastnor, Earl Somers, a founding vice-president of the Photographic Society of London (renamed the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1894), and the Swedish-born painter-turned-photographer Oscar Rejlander. [13]

Rejlander photographed Cameron’s niece and future favourite subject, Julia Jackson, in the garden and, Bryant believes, took a previously unattributed photograph of Cameron herself.

In the half-length portrait dated “about 1856”, Cameron looks neither weary nor bored as she often does in other people’s work. She holds a watchcase in her hand and leans against a great tree with such a melancholy expression on her face that you wonder if she’s timing Rejlander’s exposure, although it’s more likely she is looking at a miniature painted by Watts of her sister Virginia, Earl Somers’ wife. [14]

It is the kind of photograph that Cameron would have pasted into one of the eight photographic albums she is known to have compiled before she owned a camera herself.

One such volume is the Signor Album of 1857, most likely a gift for Watts (Signor being the name given him because of his time spent in Italy where he first met the Prinseps) which contains thirty-five images taken by different photographers and anticipates the blend of photographs of famous men and family groups that Cameron would assemble in albums of her own work. [15]

The gatherings at Little Holland House in the 1850s and 1860s have been considered a forerunner of the Bloomsbury circle. Bourgeois convention was something of an anathema to the Pattle sisters. Indeed, Julia Jackson, Cameron’s niece who posed for Rejlander at Little Holland House and later for some of Cameron’s most celebrated female portraits, would be mother to Virginia Wolf and Vanessa Bell, the Bloomsbury Group bohemians. [16]

In 1860, while on a visit to the Tennyson’s on the Isle of Wight, Julia bought two cottages at Freshwater Bay. She joined the cottages together with a castellated turret, named the property ‘Dimbola’ after one of Charles’ coffee estates, and set about creating an artistic community of her own.

DIMBOLA

The purchase was made when Charles and their eldest son were in Ceylon visiting the coffee estates. In December 1863 they were absent again. To “fill her solitude” Cameron’s daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera, lens, glass plates and the chemicals for the wet collodion process.

In Annals of My Glass House, Julia refers to the “tender ardour” with which she handled her French-made 12 inch (300mm) f3.6 Jamin fixed-aperture lens, the only piece of her equipment to have survived to this day, and seemingly destined for the V&A. The Jamin became “as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour,” she recalled. Instinctively, Julia Cameron knew the lens to be the soul of picture taking. [17]

The coal house at Freshwater might already have been converted into a darkroom as she referred to producing prints herself in an album she gave to her sister Virginia. More famously the chickens were exiled from the glazed fowl house at Freshwater to be replaced by what she described as “poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens”.

There is a recently discovered photograph titled Idyls of the Village probably taken by Oscar Rejlander. The image shows two maids at the well at Dimbola with Cameron’s studio to be, the glazed fowl house, behind them. It was found by Marta Weiss, curator of photographs at the V&A with the help of research assistant Erika Lederman during their research on Cameron and was exhibited for the first time at the V&A exhibition.

Weiss believes the photograph, possibly taken in the summer of 1863, provides a glimpse of Julia’s activity before she acquired her first camera that December and may be evidence of further collaboration with Rejlander, who she would, by then, have known for seven or eight years.

Marta Weiss, curator of photographs at the V&A photographed with the #VictorianMe frame at the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the V&A in 2015. Photo © Graham Harrison.

FINALLY, PHOTOGRAPHY CAN BE ART

Julia Margaret Cameron photographed only people. Her work can be divided into portraits of famous men and young women, pictures of madonnas (invariably her long-suffering housemaid Mary Hillier), and what she called her “fancy pictures” – romantically inspired photographs, either of children or tightly-packed groups in the glazed fowl house, perhaps, that included at least one young woman with long flowing hair.

Cameron’s “first success”, as she called it, was a portrait of the child, Annie Wilhelmina Philpot, the “sweet sunny haired little Annie”, taken in January 1864.

The focus on Annie’s face is slightly beyond the plane of the child’s eyes but sharp focus was not something to worry Cameron unduly during her first two or three years as a photographer. Her mentor Herschel never criticised her focussing, and she proclaimed early on that she focused on beauty and not for the definition which she said “all other photographers insist upon”. However, as her technique improved so did her focus, notably after the purchase of a second, larger camera and lens in 1865. [18]

Six months after taking up photography, Julia had work accepted for the Photographic Society of London’s tenth exhibition and sent twelve portraits, including a “Raphaelesque Madonna” and a profile of Henry Taylor, to the Edinburgh Photographic Society. [19]

Within a year she could present Herschel with his album. After the 1867 revision, the album included Cameron’s portraits of Tennyson, Carlyle, Watts and Herschel and her beautiful niece Julia Jackson who had married for the first time and was then Mrs Herbert Duckworth.

Perhaps the finest portrait in the Herschel Album is Iago, a remarkable close-up head of a professional male model, thought to be the Italian Alessandro di Marco. His eyes are downcast and he is deep in thought. At the Oxford seminar Colin Ford declared Cameron’s Iago, “One of the finest portraits of the nineteenth century. In any medium”.

Sitting in Gallery 100 at the V&A in November 2015, Marta Weiss explained how the photographic establishment in the 1860s reacted to Cameron’s extraordinary efforts. They thought she had misunderstood photography, said Weiss. As Professor Mike Weaver wrote in 1984, “They would have preferred her to have a sharper focus and narrower ambitions, but she gave them soft focus and large ambitions”.

Marta Weiss said the early photo-establishment in London were galled by the praise Cameron received from the broader artistic community and from critics in popular periodicals like the Athenaem and the Illustrated London News which announced that, finally, photography can be art.

BOOKS

The Gernsheim monograph Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work published in 1948, was the first detective work on Cameron’s life and photography. The Munich-educated Gernsheim, author of New Photo Vision (1942), believed the portraits were where her importance lay, an opinion advanced as early as 1889 by George Bernard Shaw when art critic on The Star.

Shaw wrote, “While the portraits of Herschel, Tennyson and Carlyle beat hollow anything I have ever seen . . . there are photographs of children . . . inartistically grouped and artlessly labelled as angels, saints or fairies”.

In Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women Roger Fry also concentrated on Cameron’s portraits. “Mrs Cameron had a wonderful perception of character as it is expressed in form, and of form as it is revealed or hidden by the incidence of light,” wrote Fry.

“Take, for example, the Carlyle. Neither Whistler nor Watts come near to this in the breadth of the conception, in the logic of the plastic evocations, and neither approach the poignancy of this revelation of character,” Fry wrote. Gernsheim agreed: “The photographer scores in every case against the painter,” he wrote in the 1971 edition of A Concise History of Photography.

“Working for her own satisfaction and not for a living,” wrote Gernsheim, “Mrs Cameron could afford to go her own way, and become a pioneer of a new kind of portraiture – the close-up. She had the real artist’s gift of piercing through the outward appearance to the soul of the individual.”

For many years praise of her portraits was at the expense of her allegories and “fancy pictures”. In his History of Photography written in 1964, Beaumont Newhall wrote, “Without the challenge of interpreting great personalities, her work tended to become lost in sentiment and to echo painting.” In his Concise History, first published in 1965, Gernsheim goes further, “In this rational age it is obvious to us that one cannot photograph ‘The Wise and Foolish Virgins’, a Sibyl, St Cecilia, or the Annunciation, because the realism of the medium inevitably reduces the sublime to the ridiculous”. But times change.

By 1978 a more inclusive view of Cameron’s enterprise appears. Writing, perhaps, for an anthology, the editor, academic and advocate of photography Bill Jay noted, “Some critics have seen fit to differentiate between her portraits (which they praise) and her theatrical setups (which they deplore). This is to totally miss the point. Both are an integral part of a complete whole, expressing an individual’s sense of self and the age in which she lived with a singular vision. They are not ‘different’, but indivisible expressions of a harmonious whole; each is less complete when seen alone.” [20]

Jay went on, “As Colin Ford has pointed out, the 19th century person believed in heroes and they produced heroes to match their belief. Mrs. Cameron’s fiercest ambition was to pay homage to these heroes, and she could do so because she herself had the heroic spirit.”

But Bill Jay’s anthology was never published and it wasn’t until 1984 that a more holistic view of Cameron’s work was presented to the public by Mike Weaver with his “key work of Cameron scholarship” Julia Margaret Cameron 1815-1879. [21]

Weaver’s book accompanied an Arts Council-backed touring exhibition which was shown at Colin Ford’s newly opened National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford in 1984 and at the V&A in London in 1985.

In his book, Weaver looked in detail at what Bill Jay and Colin Ford had realised, that the penetrating portraitist with the heroic spirit was also a High Victorian god-fearing woman who’s inspiration lay in the influences of her time, especially Romantic, Scared and Pre-Raphaelite art.

Detail of Julia Margaret Cameron’s portrait of William Michael Rossetti taken in the garden at Little Holland House in 1865. The umbrella held on the right of the frame is reducing the amount of light hitting the sitter’s beret and the left side of his face. Photo © Graham Harrison.

UMBRELLAS

In Marta Weiss’s book Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world written to accompany the V&A exhibition, is a portrait of William Michael Rossetti, brother of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, taken on the lawn at Little Holland House in 1865. Behind Rossetti is the same mature tree against which Julia leaned with a watchcase in her hand for Rejlander a decade earlier.

The turn of the head, and the slight twist of Rossetti’s body to accommodate his left hand clasping his right arm, counterbalances the diagonal of the great tree trunk as does the angle of the beret on his head. Above Rossetti’s left shoulder is a disembodied hand holding a black umbrella that shades the light from the beret which almost disappears into shadow.

The umbrella might be in the hand of Robert Browning, then about to reach the peak of his powers as a poet who Cameron also photographed in front of the tree. But what is interesting here is why, at a time when exposures were painfully long – and Cameron’s typically ran between three to seven minutes – she deliberately reduced the amount of light reaching her subject to achieve the effect she wanted. [22]

Her umbrella shades all but a kiss of daylight which illuminates Rossetti’s left temple, cheekbone and the left side of his ample beard. Light from the opposite side hits Rossetti’s right cheek below the eye to create a diagonal of light.

The photographic imperative of a shorter exposure and a smaller aperture which would have given Cameron a better chance of a static subject and greater depth of field were sacrificed for the painterly effects of modelling and chiaroscuro.

And sometimes it wasn’t only the light hitting the subject that Cameron controlled with her umbrella. In Photographs to electrify you with delight Marta Weiss quotes a critic writing in The Photographic News who described how Cameron sometimes “waved an umbrella in front of the lens during exposure, shading off the lights from various parts, and necessarily still more protracting the exposure”. [23]

Julia Margaret Cameron refused the head rests and other devices that would help her sitters remain still, said Harvard Professor Robin Kelsey at the V&A conference in January.

She kept her lens uncovered as their eyes welled up and other signs of uncontrollable vitality accumulated on the gelatinous surface of the wet glass plate.

By doing so, Cameron ensured that the dynanism of her subjects entered her photographs, Robin Kelsey said, as did her own extraordinary energy from the other side of the camera and lens. And she embraced whatever accidents happened along the way, be they blurs, scratches or uneven processing. Such faults became an affirmation for her, “a sign of human life”.

Detail of a half-length portrait of an unknown man, probably a member of the Little Holland House circle, 1864-66. The uneven application of chemicals is typical of Cameron’s early work. Photo © Graham Harrison.

IMPERFECTIONS

Julia Margaret Cameron was a “total rule breaker” said Marta Weiss surrounded by the results of Cameron’s extraordinary efforts at the V&A. “She left the traces of her process on her photographs. They are full of these little imperfections her contemporaries would have dismissed as flaws. She seemed to accept, possibly embrace them at times,” said the Harvard and Princeton educated curator.

“The beautiful photograph, Sappho, from 1865, for example, where she cracked the negative but made prints from it anyway – and there are multiple prints of it – clearly, she felt that something was successful about the image. The cracks didn’t really matter”.

“And there are other examples,” said Weiss. “Even though she very proudly said that she didn’t retouch her photographs, she did sometimes, but she did it with such directness it’s kind of funny. She scratches a moon into a picture or she tries her hand at combination printing, which by that time Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson are doing in a very skilful way.” [24]

“When Julia Margaret Cameron does combination prints she just sticks two separate photographs together and you see the seam very clearly right in the middle”.

“So there’s a frankness to her process which is interesting, especially seen from the perspective of today when a lot of contemporary artists deliberately leave traces of their process,” said Weiss.

“It’s not just her attitude to the traces and the closeups, but the lighting: the way her faces seem to emerge out of darkness, you get these isolated heads,” Marta Weiss said. “She has always been modern”. To prove her point, Weiss chose a head-on portrait of Julia Jackson for her book cover and for a giant enlargement which greeted visitors to the show on the second floor of the V&A.

With slight scratching and some small blotches, Cameron’s photograph of Jackson is direct and eternal. Cameron’s second, larger camera, bought in 1865, was built to take massive 20 × 15 inch plates and fitted with a 30 inch (760mm) Dallmeyer Rapid Rectilinear lens, an optic corrected for spherical and chromatic aberration. Jackson’s eyes are sharp and the blemishes on her skin can clearly be seen. [25]

Jackson was 21 when the picture was taken and about to become Mrs Herbert Duckworth. And although she died over a century ago the image has such presence that she’s palpably alive and looking back at you here and now. As the exhibition caption pointed out, Jackson “fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze”.

Then there’s the framing, Julia Jackson’s head is one-ninth of the frame and dead centre. The corners of the image help to focus the eyes of the viewer onto the eyes of the sitter. The space around the head lets the viewer think for them self.

Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor in the History of Art at Oxford, speaking from the audience at the Oxford seminar, said Rembrandt and Titian leave room for the spectator in their portraits. “She clearly got that, maybe from Watts,” said Professor Kemp who has a special interest in the relationship of art to science.

On 18 February 1866, Cameron wrote to Sir John Herschel in her usual ebullient style: “I have just been engaged in that which Mr. Watts has been urging me to do. A Series of Life sized heads – they are not only from Life, but to the Life, and startle the eye with wonder and delight. I hope they will astonish the public.” Her enormous camera, in a time before enlargers were readily available, was at last giving Cameron a print size she was happy with. “From life not enlarged” she wrote proudly on one of her prints of Herschel. [26]

It is suspected that a source of inspiration for Cameron were the colour lithographs, or chromolithographs, of artworks published by the Arundel Society, the Society for Promoting the Knowledge of Art, of which Cameron was a long standing member. [27]

The society’s intention was to foster a greater knowledge of art among the British public with the publication of literary works and reproductions of predominantly Renaissance art, especially frescoes considered under threat from neglect or conflict in post-Napoleonic Italy.

SIR AUSTEN HENRY LAYARD

The prime mover of the Arundel Society was the archaeologist and politician, Sir Austen Henry Layard a cultivated polymath who’s tracings of Italian frescoes are in the prints and drawings collection at the V&A. He also sought out the cities of the Bible located in Ottoman Mesopotamia. [28]

Between 1845 and 1851 Layard excavated the Assyrian sites of Nimrud and Nineveh for the British ambassador to the Ottoman empire and subsequently for the Trustees of the British Museum.

Layard lived among the Kurds, Arabs and Yazidis and attended a Yazidi wedding near Mozul. His discoveries included the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, cuniform tablets of immense historical value and a monumental human-headed winged lion and a human-headed winged ox which, having remained undisturbed for 2,700 years, were removed and dispatched on a 600 mile journey down the Tigris to Basra and a 12,000 mile voyage with the British Navy to England and the British Museum where they remain to this day.

Having completed his most adventurous travels Layard entered politics and at 52 married the 25-year-old Mary Enid Evelyn. The couple were photographed separately by Julia Cameron the year of their marriage, Mary Enid in March 1869, the month of their wedding. [29]

Having wed a much older man herself, Cameron may have been interested in exploring the moment in a young woman’s life when the innocence of youth gave way to the responsibilities of childbearing and motherhood and becoming a dutiful Victorian wife.

In such a context her 1867 portrait of Julia Jackson, taken just before her marriage to Herbert Duckworth, and the image used by Marta Weiss for her book cover and at the entrance of the V&A exhibition, can be seen as some sort of examination.

The 1867 portrait of Julia Jackson at the entrance of the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition which ran at the V&A from November 2015 to February 2016. Photo © Graham Harrison.

A RARE SENSIBILITY

Julia Jackson’s hair is undone and tousled as Cameron liked it for her female subjects. The clothing is in shadow but it may well have been crumpled and somewhat in disarray. Robin Kelsey pointed out at the V&A conference in January, that Cameron would enforce a tousled, crumpled look on her sitters to distance herself from the neat propriety sought by the commercial portrait photographers of the day. “She aimed beyond the meticulousness observed as an alibi for failed imagination,” said the Harvard Professor loftily.

A scene in Anne Thackerary’s short story From an Island (1877), deftly captures the collaborative drama surrounding the taking of a Cameron photograph such as The Rosebud Garden of Girls of 1868, an image which takes it’s name from Tennyson’s morbid and quintessential Victorian poem Maud (1855), in which the speaker’s decomposing corpse gives life to blossoming flowers in the garden where his true love walks.

Julia Cameron’s debt to the artist George Frederic Watts is made clear in the scene, as is her desire to make money out of the enterprise.

All the reader need do, in this instance, is substitute Cameron for the photographer George Hexham and Watts for the artist St. Julien, who has just proposed that a group photograph be taken.

“I was longing to try a group,” said Hexham, “and only waiting for leave. How will you sit?” And he began placing them in a sort of row, two up and one down, with a property-table in the middle. He then began focussing, and presently emerged, pale and breathless and excited, from the little black hood into which he had dived. “Will you look?” said he to St. Julian.

“I think it might be improved upon,” said St. Julian, getting interested. “Look up, Missie – up, up. That is better. And cannot you take the ribbon out of your hair?”

“Yes, uncle St. Julian, said Missie, but it will all tumble down.”

“Never mind that,” said he; and with one hand Missie pulled away the snood, and then the beautiful stream came flowing and rippling and falling all about her shoulders.

“That is excellent,” said the painter. “You, too, Hester, shake out your locks.” Then he began sending one for one thing and one for another… When we got back we found one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen, – a dream of fair ladies against an ivy wall, flowers and flowing locks, and sweeping garments…

“It takes one’s breath away,” said St. Julian, quite excited, “to have the picture there, breathing on the glass, and to feel every instant that it may vanish or dissolve with a word, with a breath. I should never have nerve for photography.”

As for the picture, Hexham came out wildly exclaiming from his little dark room: never had he done anything so strangely beautiful, – he could not believe it; it was magical… Hexham rushed up to St. Julian. “It is your doing,” he said. “It is wonderful. My fortune is made.” [30]

COPYRIGHT

The industrialisation and increasing mechanisation of society, of which the camera was part, opened a world of opportunities for the nineteenth century entrepreneur. The Camerons were not as financially secure as Julia wanted them to be and was determined to make money out of photography.

She saw her future an artist selling prints through galleries just as wholesalers were selling cartes des visites of famous sitters taken by more practical photographers by the tens of thousands. Such enterprise was facilitated by the passing of the Fine Art Copyright Act in 1862 which extended copyright protection to photographs.

As early as July 1864, just seven months after taking up photography, Julia entered a business agreement with Colnaghi, to print and sell her photographs and hired the Colnaghi Gallery in 1866 and German Gallery in 1868 for commercial exhibitions.

She was also determined in her persuit of exclusivity, as Professor Larry Schaaf pointed out during the Oxford seminar.

Her extraordinary image of her friend Sir John Herschel in the Herschel Album, was taken when the eminent scientist was ill and at his home in Kent, said Schaaf. Having arrived with a cart-load of equipment, Cameron insisted he wash his hair so that it would stand out against her black background and urged Herschel to sign some mounts and promise her never to be photographed by anyone else. [31]

In 1868 she wrote to Sir Henry Cole, the first Director of the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A), to thank him for the loan of two rooms at the museum and for understanding that, “A woman with sons to educate cannot live on fame alone”. A year later, however, Cameron would complain to Cole that after five years of “ardent patient persisting toil” she had “not yet by one hundred pounds” recovered the money she had spent on her enterprise, an extraordinary admission for a Victorian woman to make.

She was, observed Helmut Gernsheim, never good at balancing the books and gave away more prints than she could ever have sold. Even her usually indulgent husband, Charles, urged her to be less extravagant in photographic materials.

In 1875 she gave some of her negatives to the Autotype Company to make copy negatives (which, incidentally, they retouched and removed some of the vitality) at a cost to her of two guineas each. The idea being that they would produce carbon prints to sell at seven shillings and six pence each. She then tried to revoke the agreement on discovering they charged forty percent commission. Changing her mind again Cameron proposed they produce some new prints.

Julia Cameron’s very first batch of photographs were registered for copyright protection at Stationer’s Hall in London shortly after she took up photography. In all she registered 508 of the 3,000 images she is thought to have taken. Half of those she registered have never been found.

Her first ten photographs to be registered were entered in the copyright ledger on 30 May 1864. Her last five, including portraits of Herschel and Watts, her great mentors, and Tennyson, her most eminent supporter, were entered on 20 October 1875, shortly before Julia and Charles left Dimbola for a more modest life with their sons in Ceylon.

The iron-hulled passenger liner SS Mirzapore on which the Camerons sailed to Ceylon in 1875. The Mirzapore was built by P&O to exploit the Red Sea route to India and the Far East created by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

A COW AND TWO COFFINS

The journey between Europe and India, which Julia and Charles Cameron would have endured many times in their lives became quicker and safer as the steamship replaced sail and the Suez canal, opened in 1869, cut weeks off the journey to the East.

The family recount that Charles longed to return to ‘Empire’s Last Eden’, but Robin Kelsey referencing Mike Weaver suggested that a loss of investments already sustained and the potential loss of his coffee estates to the hemleia vastratrix leaf fungus then ravaging the monoculture on the island, was a serious threat to the Cameron’s income and to their social status, which Julia had nurtured for so long. There were winners and losers as Britain emerged as the super-power of the nineteenth century. The Camerons had joined the losers.

Julia and Charles departed with great commotion and sailed for Ceylon on the SS Mirzapore with much luggage and photographs and a cow and two coffins.

The cow was precaution against tuberculosis. The coffins were in case the Camerons were unfortunate enough to die at sea, a fate which had befallen Julia’s mother and her eldest sister, Adeline Maria, in years past. Julia bustled and Charles, who suffered from kidney trouble, appeared in better health than he had been in years. [32]

Four of the Cameron’s five sons were living on the island, three administering what was left of the family coffee plantations. Their middle son, Hardinge Hay, who’s studies at Oxford had ended through lack of money, worked there as a civil servant. He accompanied his parents on what proved to be their penultimate journey East.

Emilia Terracciano, a Fellow at the Ruskin School of Art, told the Oxford seminar that Charles had acquired land in Ceylon as early as 1835. The Camerons were the largest single proprietors on the island, Terracciano said, and recruited the earliest Tamil labourers from India. Julia’s images taken on the island were “photographs of bondage and part of our own collective history of race,” she said.

Certainly Cameron did not record the names of her Ceylonese subjects just as she rarely identified her British-born servants in her photographs. In the context of nineteenth century colonialism, however, the Camerons should be classified as liberals within a predominantly high Tory establishment.

Charles was a follower of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham who believed “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. He worked for legal reform in Ceylon, and in India for the education of the native population, helping to establish the University of Calcutta. Julia, in Calcutta in 1845, employed her undoubted energy to organise a relief fund for the Irish potato famine. She raised £14,000, perhaps worth a £1 million in today’s money. She was never so successful in earning money herself.

In April 1878, Julia, Charles and Hardinge returned to England briefly and unexpectedly. On the voyage Julia wrote about the saleabilty of her work and hoped the Autotype Company could be persuaded to market her work better.

That July and again in August, a notice was published in The Times advertising the sale of Dimbola, “the well-known residences of Charles Hay Cameron, Esq., and Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron”. [33]

Five months after the second advert appeared in the newspaper Julia died in Ceylon and Charles followed her shortly after.

THE VISITING BOTANIST

What survives from Julia Cameron’s three and a half years in Ceylon are less than thirty photographs, although, while staying with Hardinge on the coast at Kalutara, they were surrounded by prints, recalled the artist and botanist Marianne North who visited the Camerons in January 1877.

“The walls of the rooms were covered with magnificent photographs,” North noted in volume one of her autobiography Recollections of a Happy Life (1892). “Others were tumbling about the tables, chairs and floors, with quantities of damp books, all untidy and picturesque.”

The botanist wrote that for three days Julia was “in a fever of excitement” photographing her guest, the only European to sit for her in Ceylon. “She dressed me up in flowing draperies of cashmere wool, let down my hair, and made me stand with spiky cocoa-nut branches running into my head, the noonday sun’s rays dodging my eyes between the leaves as the slight breeze moved them, and told me to look perfectly natural (with a thermometer standing at 96˚)!”, said North.

“Then she tried me with a background of breadfruit leaves and fruit, nailed flat against a window shutter, and told them to look natural.”

“But both failed,” wrote North. However, time has proved a better judge and the twelve plates and “enormous amount of trouble” Cameron expended in the exercise were not wasted. Prints of two quite intense portraits of North have survived as has a truly beautiful full length silhouette of the botanist painting on the veranda at Kalutara, a success rate of twenty-five percent.

The well known description of tame rabbits, squirrels and mina birds running in and out of the house “without the slightest fear” and the grey whiskered monkeys and all sorts of fowls outside also come from North’s description of Kalutara. As does the depiction of the handsome stag guarding the entrance and of Charles, then 84, walking round the veranda, joining in conversation, quoting poetry and reading aloud to North as she painted.

Asked personally at Oxford why the Marianne North portraits have receive so little attention, Colin Ford said he really didn’t understand at all. “I could kill for that veranda photograph!” he said.

Elizabeth Edwards, recipient of the 2014 Society for Visual Anthropology Lifetime Achievement Award, said at Oxford that Julia Margaret Cameron had lifelong ties to the imperial and colonial endeavour. “There has been a mistaken marginalisation of Cameron’s Ceylon work,” said Edwards.

That marginalisation may be attributed to Helmut Gernsheim who, in 1948, dismissed her Ceylon photographs as “quite unimportant”.

COBURN’S CAMERONS

Also speaking at the Oxford seminar, which was convened by Dr Mirjam Brusius, Research Fellow in Photographic History at Oxford University, was Pamela Roberts, curator of the RPS collection for nineteen years until 2001 and co-author of the book Alvin Langdon Coburn (2015). Roberts explained how the American-born photographer played a key role in the recognition and preservation of Cameron’s work.

With PH Emerson, Frederick Evans and his fellow American Clarence White, Coburn regarded Julia Margaret Cameron as his great forebear in photography. “She gave this Anglo-American tradition of pictorial photographers its foundation,” writes Professor Mike Wheeler in The Photographic Art (1986). “Cameron was a typological feminist, an artist of genius, who was capable of expressing psychological insight into the nature of relations between men and women in a pre-Symbolist manner.” Like her, the Pictorialists used the camera as a means of self-expression. They employed soft-focus and processed and printed their images in ways to differentiate their work from the documentary image.

Inspired by a “splendid collection of Mrs Cameron’s work” at the Serendipity Gallery in London in 1904, Coburn began to collect her pictures, among them Kaltura Peasants (1875), Alice Liddle as Pamona (1872) and the extraordinary Mountain Nymph Sweet Liberty (1866). [34]

Pamela Roberts thought that some of Coburn’s prints may have come from the Cameron family, perhaps from Coburn’s publisher Gerald Duckworth who was the son of Julia Jackson from her first marriage. Coburn also managed to secure Cameron’s Jamin lens. [35]

In 1914 he loaned his original Cameron prints for an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society which became part of a bigger project on the old masters of photography shown in New York. Coburn, who settled in Wales, gave the Jamin lens and his best Cameron prints to the RPS in 1928 and donated a further ninety Cameron prints to the Society in 1930.

The Living Body, a Kodak sponsored exhibition held at the Royal Photographic Society HQ at the Octagon in Bath in 1985. Kodak helped save the Hershel Album with two donations of £5,000 in 1975 and donated £50,000 to the RPS for the Society’s move to Bath in 1980. Today, Kodak sponsors the Kodak Gallery at the National Media Museum in Bradford to which they have donated 35,000 objects and images.

LONDON, BATH, BRADFORD, LONDON

There are 250,000 artefacts dating from 1827 to today in the Royal Photographic Society Collection, including 31,000 books and 8,000 items of photographic equipment. All of which may soon be leaving Bradford for the V&A in London.

Among the collection’s treasures are Fox Talbot’s paper negatives and prints, his early cameras, letters and notebooks, three hundred and fifty Hill and Adamson salt prints and seven hundred and eighty prints by Roger Fenton. From Cameron alone – partly thanks to the American exile Alvin Langdon Coburn – there are seven hundred and forty-eight albumen prints, her Jamin lens and the original text for Annals of My Glass House.

When the Society’s Mayfair headquarters became too expensive to maintain in the late 1970s the RPS launched a successful £300,000 international appeal to create an RPS National Photographic Centre at the Grade II listed Octagon Church in Bath, Somerset. [36]

“It is our intention to create in Bath the main centre of photography in the country, if not in the world,” RPS Secretary Kenneth Warr announced grandly when the appeal was launched in June 1978. [37]

Kodak, which had donated £10,000 to save the Herschel Album for the nation four years earlier, donated £50,000 and smaller amounts were generated in “a most heartening response in money-raising ingenuity” from RPS members and the wider photographic community that included a go-cart marathon and an auction conducted by Lord Snowdon. The photographic press ran sponsored competitions while slide show receipts, lecture fees and book royalties were donated by camera clubs and individuals until the £300,000 target was reached. [38]

The RPS moved in to the Octagon on Milsom Street, Bath in May 1980. It was another six years before Pamela Roberts could reveal “the story of one woman’s epic voyage through a sea of boxes” that it took to catalogue the RPS Collection. [39]

As the RPS approached its 150th anniversary in 2003 finances were again tight. With maintenance and storage costs rising the Society departed the Octagon after twenty-three years for more modest accommodation in Bath and an agreement was reached to move the increasingly valuable RPS Collection to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television at Bradford.

While The Times reported the RPS Collection would be “stored as a coherent entity, in conditions more appropriate to its value”, RPS President John Page told Society members that combining the RPS Collection with that of the NMPFT made the Bradford collection “the best in the world”. Page also pointed out that “a member of the RPS Council will in the future take one of the three seats on the Museum’s Advisory Board.” [40] [41]

The cost of the move was met by a then record grant of £3.75 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with grants from the National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) and Yorkshire Forward, a now defunct government and EU-backed regional development agency.

The director of the NMPFT at the time was Amanda Nevill, a former RPS Secretary and RPS National Photographic Centre administrator, who left for the BFI shortly after the arrival of the RPS Collection at Bradford and three years before the museum was renamed the National Media Museum. [42] [43]

The RPS Collection, said Nevill, was “the photographic equivalent of the contents of the Louvre”.

At the V&A seminar in January, Colin Ford admitted that his favourite of all Julia Cameron’s images was Iago, the unique print of the Italian model from the Herschel Album, which is not in the RPS Collection, but had moved with Ford to Bradford from the National Portrait Gallery in 1983.

The only known print from a lost negative, Iago was valued at half a million pounds, perhaps three-quarters of a million, in 2003 by Philippe Garner, the auctioneer who had sold the Herschel Album at Sotheby’s in 1975, said Ford.

There are ninety three prints in the Herschel Album and another 400,000 objects in the National Media Museum collection slated to move south again to the V&A in London. It would be hard to put a value on such an archive today.

“What is really sad is the break up of the curatorial team,” a photographic historian with intimate knowledge of the RPS Collection said. “Brian Liddy, oversaw the move of the collection from Bath to Bradford in 2003. His knowledge would be of immense value to the V&A”. 

WET PLATES LIKE WET WALLS

A boom in photography followed the Great Exhibition in 1851. That same year Frederick Scott Archer’s, wet plate collodion process was published. Unpatented and capable of producing a glass negative that could render fine detail and from which unlimited copies could be made, the wet plate superseded the callotype and the daguerrotype and dominated photography for thirty years.

Cameron could have achieved technical proficiency in the process by following the advise of Sir John Herschel but she may have been interested in the parallels between the wet plate process and fresco painting, as Professor Mike Weaver observed in 1984. “The wall had to be damp as a wet plate,” Weaver noted. And as both their mediums dried relatively quickly – collodion in about ten minutes and plaster in a few hours – photographer and fresco painter alike may have sacrificed detail and careful finish for speed, simplicity in design and breadth of effect.

The Renaissance artists endeavoured “to embody moral beauty in graceful and lovely material forms, which appeal directly to our hearts and our imaginations, and make us almost pass over faults of execution,” wrote Sir Austen Henry Layard, who had sought to educate the British public on Italian frescoes through the Arundel Society, and for whom the preeminent English fresco painter at the time was none other than George Frederic Watts, the artistic mentor of Julia Margaret Cameron. [44]

“Sometimes the technology produces the aesthetic and sometimes the desire for the aesthetic produces the technology”: Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A with Paul Strand’s Graflex camera. Photo © Graham Harrison.

THE BLACK ART

Silver nitrate, however, is distinctly unlike the fresco painter’s harmless pigment and water. Used in medicine and an essential ingredient in the collodion process, and in Cameron’s favoured albumen prints, silver nitrate is toxic and leaves a dark stain on skin when exposed to sunlight. The stain lasts about ten days.

Cameron’s great niece Laura Troubridge, recalled her aunt, “dressed in dark clothes, stained with chemicals from her photography, (and smelling of them too)”. Julia described her own hands as being “As black as an Ethiopian Queen’s” in a letter to Herschel in which she enquired if he knew of a chemical less dangerous than potassium cyanide to remove the stains.

Wet plate photographers were banned from all churches and cathedrals in Britain as they “used to allow the silver stains (from wet plates) to drop from their dark slides on to the marble pavements”, Bill Jay discovered when researching his essay The Black Art, and Queen Victoria, although a great enthusiast and collector of photography, prohibited the wet plate process from her palaces as soon as dry plate photography became a practical alternative.

But these inconveniences never detracted from the allure of the medium, the seeming magic of it, the alchemy of the black art. “To have the picture there, breathing on the glass, and to feel every instant that it may vanish or dissolve with a word, with a breath” as Annie Thackeray recognised. Julia Cameron’s Jamin lens was, for her, “as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour”.

Martin Barnes, at the Press View for the Paul Strand exhibition at the V&A on 16 March, said he recognised there is a particular interdependence between the art of photography and the science of photography, perhaps unique in creative media.

“The whole history of photography is a combination of a desire for a particular aesthetic and it’s then controlled by a certain technology and sometimes the technology produces the aesthetic and sometimes the desire for the aesthetic produces the technology and those two things have continued since the daguerreotype,” said the V&A’s Senior Curator in Photography as he stood in front of Paul Strand’s Graflex camera dating from 1917.

“So sometimes you appreciate the aesthetic of a picture because of the way it’s printed or from the way the camera is made and you understand something about the scale of the picture because you know that makes a certain size of negative that has a certain quality,” said Barnes. “I’m really thrilled. Strand’s use of different formats of cameras and negatives and print types: You can marry then all up in the show. And you can see so much by putting them together.”

GERNSHEIM AT WAR

On 23 April 1975 The Times published a letter from Helmut Gernsheim and ran a separate report on his support for Colin Ford’s campaign to save the Herschel Album.

Gernsheim said he’d “offered his own collection to the British nation in 1951 on condition that a National Photographic Archive be set up to house it”. And, in a letter of 10 May 1975, he said he’d received a “clear rebuff” when he offered to merge his collection with that of the RPS in 1953.

After twelve years of negotiation the Gernsheim collection of 35,000 images was sold to the University of Texas at Austin in 1963.

“Britain could have had them for nothing, but people in this country only appreciate things that cost a lot of money,” said Gernsheim.

When, in 1975, the National Arts Collections Fund donated £5,000 to save the Herschel Album, Gernsheim saw it as “a good omen signifying the long overdue recognition of photography as an art medium”.

There was a growing awareness in Britain about the inaction over the creation of a National Collection of Photography, he explained. “Unfortunately, due to a lack of imagination and foresight our museums did not embrace photography, a field in which Britain has produced some of the world’s greatest masters,” Gernsheim said.

In response to the article in The Times and to Gernsheim’s letter, Roy Strong, who had moved from the National Portrait Gallery to become the youngest director of the V&A, replied that the V&A’s holdings “are an obvious genesis” for a national collection as the museum had collected photographs since 1852.

“Its range for the 19th century cannot be rivalled by any public institution in this country,” said Strong, who called for support from photographers, collectors and the public to make good the collection of 20th century works to match those in the United States.

Gernsheim shot back, “May I remind him that in December 1972, when still director of the National Portrait Gallery, he himself publicly believed in the need for the creation of an independent national collection, an institution that photography urgently requires”. Gernsheim called for a “national effort” and for “national interest to be placed before institutional politics”.

Michael Berkowitz in Jews and Photography in Britain (2015), points out that Gernsheim “both created and unsettled” the history of photography movement in the UK. He was certainly scathing of the RPS in New Photo Vision and he was never less than blunt in print. “On the one hand Gernsheim exaggerated the degree to which he was feted by the establishment. On the other he minimised the extent to which he challenged, and even threatened the field,” Berkowitz writes.

Gernsheim also “played a huge role in the still unwritten story of the creation of the ‘art market’ for photography”, Berkowitz believes, with the sale of his collection to the University of Texas in 1963 for what is believed to be more that a million dollars.

Gernsheim’s post-Texas acquisitions went to the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim. “The National Media Museum collection is formidable, but it would be far richer if it held the treasures of Gernsheim that are now housed in Austin and Mannheim,” Berkowitz wrote in his epilogue.

What Berkowitz also revealed was how Gernsheim may have antagonised both Sir Leigh Ashton, Director of the V&A from 1945 to 1955, and Sir Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery (later of Civilisation fame), without who’s enthusiastic support “the photography museum project had little chance of success in Britain”.

Gernsheim managed to get Lady Rothermere to undermine Ashton’s resistance to a Victorian salon at the Victorian Photographs exhibition during the Festival of Britain in 1951, and he misread Clark’s patrician attitude. [45]

Clark had privately supported the idea of a National Museum of Photography based on the Gernsheim collection, but as Gernsheim’s disappointments mounted Clark suggested he simply give his collection to the V&A.

Clark failed to recognise the need for the Gernsheims to earn a living and the logic of them curating a collection they themselves had assembled.

Berkowitz concluded, “They were, in fact, the best if not the only logical choice as curators. In this instance Clark generated a failure of both sympathy and imagination, which cost the nation dear.”

BUDGET

When National Media Museum Director Jo Quinton-Tulloch faced a Bradford Council scrutiny committee after the plans of the transfer to the V&A had been announced she said that budget restraints meant the NMM had to focus on the science of photography and film alone.

Art photography, she said, “is not an area that we are going to curate anymore, and we don’t have the resource to make it actively available”. The collection would be better looked after at a new “international photography resource centre” at the V&A, said Quinton-Tulloch. [46]

On Source Photographic Review Michael Terwey, Head of Collections at the NMM explained in March, “As part of normal museum business we review our collections and we do transfer things” although he recognised this was on an unprecidented scale. “I think Martin [Barnes] has said before its good the national museums should work together in these kind of ways we think this is a good moment for us to do this because it makes a lot of organisational sense.

At the Paul Strand exhibition Martin Barnes said he saw the national collections as a national responsibility. “We can move on from the cultural imperialism of packaging an exhibition up and sending it to Newcastle, say. There has to be more involvement, more of a dialogue around why does this exhibition go there and is there university research going on in Newcastle that can illuminate things that we have in the collections?” said Barnes. “We can genuinely have a dialogue around an academic programme, an exhibition programme, a learning programme.”

What has been forgotten, Barnes pointed out, are the touring exhibitions and collaborations with museums the V&A has been involved with outside of London over the last ten years. “I counted about twenty-six different exhibitions and they’ve gone to every town museum around the UK, we’ve had one and half million people who’ve come to see V&A photographic exhibitions outside of London in the last ten years,” Barnes said.

Funding, however, remains “a bit chicken and egg”, Barnes said. “Plans will become refined and developed once we know the scope of the collections and what the focus of those collections are.” He thought the Royal Photographic Society Collection should remain a distinct entity.

“It makes sense it doesn’t loose its provenance and doesn’t get split up,” said Barnes. “But I’m very open for discussion to see what is the right thing for the collections.”

A REFUGE FOR DESTITUTE COLLECTIONS

The V&A has been collecting photographs since its inception in 1852. In 1864 the museum bought a number of Julia Margaret Cameron’s prints and gave the photographer her first and only museum exhibition in the autumn of 1865. In 1868, when the museum granted Cameron the use of two rooms as a portrait studio she became, Marta Weiss said, the museum’s very first artist-in-residence.

The V&A exhibition Julia Margaret Cameron, curated by Weiss, was structured around four of Cameron’s letters to the museum’s founder Sir Henry Cole who, in May 1865, sat for Cameron at Little Holland House. “A German girl held an umbrella over me,” Cole wrote in his diary.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was Henry Cole’s idea. The extraordinary success of the exhibition led to better design education in Britain and to the founding of the South Kensington Museum which in 1909 was split into the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Cole described his institution as “a refuge for destitute collections”.

If the V&A is the latest refuge for the RPS Collection and for other photographic art works and objects of historical importance, as now seems likely, the inevitable question is how can the work required to catalogue, store and present the collection to the public be funded? Cataloguing alone might take thirty years the Telegraph suggested.

From the RPS campaign in 1978 that made possible the move of their collection from London to Bath, to the record Heritage Lottery Fund grant which helped pay for the Collection to be moved from Bath to Bradford in 2003, to a number of eye-catching makeovers at Bradford and on to 2013 with the opening of the Media Space at the Science Museum at a cost of £4.5 million, the future of which appears to be uncertain now it’s original purpose to showcase the best of the Bradford collection to a rich and influential London audience is unlikely to continue: All of these ambitious, costly and time-consuming enterprises have proved temporary.

THE MYTH OF ACCESSIBILITY

Photographer David Hoffman, who has been involved in arts groups for forty years believes that the conditions that inevitably accompany government funding stifle that essential spark of brilliance that brings lasting success.

The Arts Council, Hoffman said in an email, was responsible for the destruction of vibrant arts organisations as early as the late 1970s.

“Technology, particularly desktop publishing, made publishing and graphic design cheap and straightforward. Suddenly deprofessionalisation was the buzz word and ‘community involvement’ became the funders’ patronising mantra,” Hoffman said in an email.

“Arts organisations were required to show how engaged with ‘local people’ they were and concepts such as skill, application, imagination and originality were dismissed as arrogant devices that excluded those who lacked them.”

“To be funded, work had to be accessible to all,” said Hoffman.

“Content was no longer relevant and challenging work was seen as insulting the hard of thinking. Footfall became king and the easiest way to bulk up visitor numbers was school trips.

“Innovative, dynamic and successful groups such as Camerawork that had sprung up as art for social change had their efforts diverted into getting the numbers through the doors that would bring in the ArtsCo cheque. They became dull and irrelevant,” Hoffman said.

“The creative founders left and administrators took their place. Vast sums were spent on ‘community darkrooms’ that were, and remain, unused. Leaving serious work unfunded.

“In 2008 a colleague and I went to a “Photo Forum” at Four Corners in Bethnal Green. We found about sixty shouty students, pissed on grant-funded booze, giggling and chattering away through the shows without attention to or appreciation of the photos being shown. The lone exception was a guy in the front row sitting quietly and attentively and surreptitiously taking photos of any nudes included in the projection,” said Hoffman.

“We were so angry that we walked out and started our own Photo-Forum. Eight years on it’s stronger than ever, refusing all external funding, running to packed houses and showing the work of some of the best photographers working today.”

BREAKING THE ADDICTION

Shortly after becoming Head of the Bradford museum in 1983 Colin Ford went to Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight, where he discovered Mary Hillier’s grave in the churchyard and two empty negative boxes with the descendants of the Cameron’s gardeners. One box was for negatives from Cameron’s first camera. The other for her second larger camera in which was written in Cameron’s hand “No. 24 Christina Rossetti profile”.

Ford said that no other mention of the encounter has been found, let alone a print.

“More words have been written and spoken about Julia Margaret Cameron than perhaps any other photographer in the history of the medium,” said Ford. “Yet there remain huge unanswered questions about her.”

Ford said he didn’t “get” Cameron when he saw the Herschel Album for the first time in 1974 but once he did “she took over my life” and triggered his campaign to start a national museum of photography in Britain. Ford adapted and promoted an idea Helmut Gernsheim had been promoting for thirty years and succeeding in establishing the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.

David Hoffman’s view is that the “corrosion of the organic, spirited spontaneous arts movement” by unimaginative funding bodies continues to stifle progress today. “Our arts organisations must break their addiction to fat-cat cheques signed by ignorant bean counters and rediscover creativity,” Hoffman said.

Another serious problem is a future with a generation of young people unlikely to receive a proper visual arts education. Frances Morris, the newly installed director at Tate Modern talking about the need for diversity in the arts told the Guardian, “Education has to be central. If we don’t have a proper visual arts education, all the other things that we are told to do, like diversification of our audience, will never happen,” said Morris who also pointed out, “In the nineteenth century [the Tate] didn’t buy photography. It took us over a hundred years to catch up”.

“MY PRECIOUS NEGATIVE

Before the Camerons sailed for Ceylon Julia left many of her negatives with the Autotype Company in London for copying and printing. According to Gernshiem, they were still with the company when it was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. All but two of those that remained, Colin Ford believes, may have simply faded away.

Cameron, herself certainly saw her negatives as “fatally perishable” and there was always a necessity for her, “to print as actively as I can whilst my precious negative is yet good”.

The fading negative, like the passing of time is not unlike the fading possibility we have to create an inspiring and permanent place for Britain’s photographic heritage as the artefacts accumulate and become increasingly burdened by their own value.

Names more inspiring than “media museum” or “international resource centre”, which doom an idea to failure in the long term, are required.

Digital photography, a medium Martin Barnes describes as “chameleon” has a role but to understand the history of analogue photography there has to be a physical element that is in touch, if no longer with the chemistry, then with the optics, with seeing and understanding how we see and what it is we catch when we catch the moment.

Martin Barnes told Source Photographic Review that if Bradford “had been funded better and resourced and decentralised and supported genuinely by government then you would have had a different situation”.

Which means that the museums are telling us we are where we are.


• • •


The National Photography Symposium: (L-R) Michael Terwey, Head of Collections, NMM, Bradford; Colin Ford, former Head of NMPFT, Bradford; Martin Barnes, Senior Curator, Photographs, V&A; Michael Pritchard, Director General of the Royal Photographic Society and Paul Herrmann, Director of Redeye at Derby Quad on 22 April 2016. Photo © Graham Harrison.

So, what happened next? The National Collections Debate at the National Photography Symposium at Derby Quad happened. On Friday 22 April 2016, the sixth National Photography Symposium organised by Redeye examined the National Media Museum’s decision to give a major part of its photography archive, including the Royal Photographic Society collection, to the V&A in London. Also looked at were the consequences and possibilities that had opened up.

For the fist time since the announcements, representatives from all the parties concerned were present to answer questions in public.

Speakers included Colin Ford, founding Head of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television; Martin Barnes, Senior Curator, Photographs, Victoria and Albert Museum; Michael Terwey, Head of Collections & Exhibitions at the National Media Museum; Michael Pritchard, Director General of The Royal Photographic Society; Anne McNeill, Director of Impressions Gallery, Bradford; Francis Hodgson, Professor in the Culture of Photography, University of Brighton and Jo Booth, artist and researcher.

Sarah Fisher, Director of Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, Paul Herrmann, Director of Redeye and Graham Harrison of Photo Histories also took part.

And? There will be a further opportunity to study the contexts of the work of Julia Margaret Cameron in the late spring. The exhibition Painting with Light: Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the Modern Age, at Tate Britain from May, is billed to reveal just how vital painting and early photography were to one another by hanging the works of Cameron and her photographic contemporaries including the London-born New Yorker Zaida Ben Yusuf (1869-1933), beside paintings by Turner and Whistler and Rossetti. It’s been a long time coming.

The 1970s revival: The revival in interest in Victorian photography probably started in the United States as a result of reprinting photographs from the American Civil War (1861-65) during the centenary celebrations, The Times reported in ‘Objects of collectors’ craze being saved for nation’ on 19 April 1975. A relatively common book such as John Thompson and Adolphe Smith’s Street Life in London (1877-78), which was worth about £50 in 1970 would have cost £1,600 in March 1974 and £3,000 in March 1975, The Times stated.

1971: The Photographers’ Gallery founded by Sue Davies opened at 8 Great Newport Street, London. The gallery’s first exhibition was The Concerned Photographer curated by Cornell Capa.

1972: From Today Painting is Dead, V&A exhibition backed by the Arts Council. Colin Ford becomes the National Portrait Gallery’s first curator of photographs, the first at any national museum in Britain.

1973: NPG buys 258 Hill and Adamson portraits at a cost of £32,000.

1974: NPG buys Lewis Carroll album of portraits with the help of Kodak Ltd; Green leather album of the work of Cameron and other photographers including Rejlander sold at Sotheby’s for £40,000 to private buyer; Herschel Album, sold at Sotheby’s for £52,000, subsequently bought for the NPG following public subscription.

1975: The Real Thing, British Photographs 1840 – 1950 touring exhibition backed by the Arts Council.


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NOTES on Julia Margaret Cameron and Britain’s Photographic Heritage

[1] Colin Ford (b 1934) is joint-editor of Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs (2003) and author of Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius (also 2003). When he joined the NPG in 1972 he became the first curator of photographs in any national museum in Britain. Ford’s previous job was Deputy Curator at the National Film Archive.

[2] Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) made a significant contribution to early photography. The son of the astronomer William Herschel, John understood optics and chemistry and investigated the properties of the fixing agent sodium thiosulphate (hypo) as early as 1819. Herschel is credited with creating the words “photography” and “snapshot” and for introducing the terms “positive” and “negative” to photography. He produced a glass negative of his father’s telescope at Slough in 1839. In 1842 Herschel invented the cyanotype sun-printing process which he encouraged the botanist Anna Atkins to use to record her algae collection. Her Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions produced in 1843, is believed to be the first book produced by a photographic process and the first photographic work by a woman.

[3] Ford is, “perhaps the only UK curator of photographs who one could have imagined at the Harry Ransom Center or MOMA or the Bibliothèque Nationale or any of the other really proper photographic collections.” Francis Hodgson, 2013. Ford, assisted by Amateur Photographer was the driving force that elicited 4,000 donations from companies and individuals to save the Herschel Album. Cheques were made payable to ‘The Cameron Collection’ and sent to the Royal Bank of Scotland on Charing Cross Road, London SW1.

[4] The Herschel Album had been bought at auction by Robert Mapplethorpe’s mentor and lover Sam Wagstaff who, denied his prize by the refusal of an export licence by the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Arts, nevertheless assembled one of the finest private collections of photographs in the world. Wagstaff could see and understand what he was seeing and was able to verbalise it, according to photography dealer Robert Hershkowitz. “Sam was trying to figure out the aesthetics of photography.” From The voracious eye of Sam Wagstaff by Liz Jobey, FT Magazine, 4 March 2016. In 1984 Wagstaff sold his collection of 30,000 photographs to the J Paul Getty Museum for $4.5 million. The Thrill of the Chase: the Wagstaff Collection of Photographs is at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, from 15 March to 31 July 2016 and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut from 10 September to 11 December 2016.

[5] Two years before, in December 1972, the Rev. John Wall of the RPS wrote to The Times about the “increasing value and significance of photographic collections and the frenzy of activity to secure them” by American buyers and called for photographs to be added to the works of art requiring an export licence and for the establishment of a National Photographic Archive. The Rev. Wall was working on a Directory of British Photographic Collections at the time. Page 17,The Times, 5 December 1972.

[6] “When Ford opened Bradford, it had something like eight galleries, showing everything from emerging photographers to the most established” wrote Francis Hodgson. “It was in an odd place as far as London culture-vultures were concerned, but it really was the national museum of photography. After his departure, a lot of that concentration was diluted.”

[7] Front Row, BBC Radio 4, Thursday, 10 March 2016.

[8] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) entry on Julia Margaret Cameron by Helen Barlow, 2004.

[9] “In 1826 [Charles] had an illegitimate son and in 1828 an illegitimate daughter, both by a German woman who later returned to Germany”. Julia and Charles married in Calcutta on 1 February 1838. ODNB entry on Charles Hay Cameron by Leslie Stephen, 2008.

[10] “Queened it” comes from pages 62-67 of The Magic Image (1974) by Beaton and Gail Buckland. Their entry on Cameron is one of the largest for any photographer.

[11] The Camerons lived in Tunbridge Wells, East Sheen and then Putney before moving to Freshwater on the Isle of White in 1860. In Tunbridge Wells they lived near Henry Taylor (1800–1886), Charles’ friend and colleague from the Colonial Office. Taylor was also a poet and playwright and became one of Julia’s most frequent photographic models, appearing in thirty-two of her photographs in all. He is responsible for introducing the Camerons to Tennyson.

[12] Except for the actress Ellen Terry, briefly and disastrously Watts’ wife at seventeen, who described Little Holland House as “a hornet’s nest”.

[13] In 1857 a copy of Rejlander’s large allegorical composite-print The Two Ways of Life was bought by Queen Victoria for Prince Albert who hung it in his study. Containing nudes and printed from over thirty negatives, Rejlander’s work was considered in art circles the highest level which photography could obtain. Helmut Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography (1971).

[14] The albumen print of Julia Margaret Cameron and her watchcase, circa 1856, is in a private collection. It was reproduced on page 18 of Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs (2003), by Julian Cox and Colin Ford.

[15] In 2013 the Signor Album, the volume of prints by other photographers assembled by Cameron for her mentor George Frederic Watts in 1857, was sold to a foreign buyer for £121,250. Despite having an export licence deferred on the grounds that the album was of outstanding significance for the study of nineteenth century photography, and particularly of Julia Margaret Cameron, it was not saved for the nation, indeed, its potential loss received scant publicity unlike Colin Ford’s efforts to save the Herschel Album in 1975. The Signor Album was the most important Cameron object to have left the country, Ford told the Julia Margaret Cameron at 200 conference on 15 Jaunary 2016. “A lot of historical questions… might have been answered by the Signor Album,” said Ford.

[16] Bohemian culture was popularised by Henri Murger’s collection of short stories, Scenes de la Vie de Bohème (1845). The term “bohemian” was first used in Britain in Thackerary’s 1848 satire, Vanity Fair. The book’s main character is an unscrupulous adventuress of Anglo-French origin called Becky Sharp.

[17] The Jamin lens consisted of two separate groups of elements. It had rack and pinion focussing and a fixed aperture of f 3.6, a design invented by the Hungarian mathematician Joseph Max Petzval in 1840. Although astigmatism and curvature of field were marked, the wide aperture and short depth of field made the Petzval design ideal for commercial portraiture. The name ‘Jamin’ indicates the lens was made before 1860 as Mossieur Jamin’s company was taken over by his plant manager Darlot that year. Lenses were engraved Jamin-Darlot for one year and simply Darlot thereafter. A Darlot Portrait Lens.

[18] Cameron used her second, larger camera to photograph her grandson as early as August 1865 and she registered a number of the larger-negative prints for copyright that November. It was previously believed she acquired the camera in 1866. Marta Weiss, Note 76, page 45, Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world.

[19] On 24 November 1864 Cameron wrote to the Edinburgh Photographic Society “I propose sending 12 portraits, chiefly of eminent men [including Tennyson and Trollope] and some of these 12 are very beautiful fancy pictures all from the life… Regarding their excellence, I can assure you that they are pronounced by the greatest Artists in London ‘to be amongst the finest things in existence’”.

[20] Julia Margaret Cameron: An Appraisal, Bill Jay , 1978.

[21] “Mike Weaver, in a key work of Cameron scholarship, published in 1984, has placed Cameron’s conception of genius and beauty within a specifically Christian framework, as indicative of the sublime and the sacred.” Helen Barlow, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[22] There is another hand holding an umbrella in the full-length portrait Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision taken at the same location in the same year.

[23] In Note 10 on page 43 of Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world, Weiss quotes from an article titled ’Long Exposures’ in The Photographic News, 19 December 1873.

[24] Rejlander printed from separate negatives onto a single sheet of light-sensitive paper, Robinson used photomontage or “cut and paste” to assemble the components of his images.

[25] The Rapid Rectilinear lens designed by John Henry Dallmeyer was corrected for spherical and chromatic aberration, ie aplanatic. Shut down, the lens was sharp but with the aperture wide open as Cameron tended to use it, sharpness fell off markedly from the centre. Gernsheim, referencing HP Emerson, states that if she had wanted soft focus she could have bought Dallmeyer’s soft focus portrait lens rather than the general purpose Rapid Rectilinear.

[26] Note 77, page 45, Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world, Marta Weiss.

[27] Founded in 1848 the Arundel Society was named after “the collector earl”, Thomas Howard of Arundel (1586 – 1646), who imported artworks including classical statues from Greece and Italy to Britain, probably the first person to do so. His collection of marble carvings was eventually left to Oxford University.

[28] Of Huguenot descent, Layard “hated humbug and casuistry, and had a genuine and intense sympathy with the oppressed, especially those suffering under clerical rule. In that sense he was a man of the people… his zest, imagination, creativity, and idealism made him an important figure in a dazzling variety of fields, an unusually cultivated and vigorous all-rounder even by the high standards of his age.” Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817–1894) by Jonathan Parry, ODNB.

[29] Layard married Mary Enid Evelyn (1843–1912) on 9 March 1869 at St George’s, Hanover Square, London. A Cameron print titled Mrs Enid Layard was sold at auction at Bonhans, London on 12 November 2012 for £10,000.

[30] From an Island Part 2, VII, pages 59-61. Anne Thackerary’s novella is dedicated to Alfred and Emily Tennyson.

[31] Larry Schaaf is director of the William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné at the Bodleian Library, publication of which is expected later this year.

[32] Life and death at sea: The first Pattle daughter, Adeline Maria, died aged 24 off the coast of Indonesia on 26 May 1836. Her mother, also called Adeline Maria, died on the voyage bringing her husband’s body to England on 11 November 1845. She was 52. Maria Theodora, the fifth Pattle daughter and mother of Julia Jackson, was born off the coast of Kenya on 7 July 1818.

[33] “ISLE of WIGHT, Freshwater – For SALE, by Private Contract, the valued FREEHOLD PROPERTY, known as Dimbola-lodge and Sunnyside, the well-known residences of Charles Hay Cameron, Esq., and Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron, beautifully situate within 400 yards of the admires Freshwater Bay, within five minutes walk of the post and telegraph office, a mile distant from two churches, and commanding an open view of the sea and Down. The houses are most desirably placed for a gentleman’s residence, or well adapted for a high-class school, or for a first-rate boring house, being connected internally, and can be occupied together or separately. They contain five spacious reception rooms and 20 principle and secondary bed rooms and excellent offices. A detached building in the lawn has been used as a theatre or lecture room, and is well suited for a gallery or billiard room. The pleasure grounds are prettily disposed in croquet and tennis lawn, and are well planted with choice evergreen and other trees. There is stable accommodation, and the supply of water is good. Immediate possession may be had.” Advert placed in The Times, 13 July 1878 and 21 August 1878.

[34] Prices at the Serendipity Gallery ranged from fifteen shillings to one pound ten shillings for a Cameron print. The exhibition ran from 23 June to 31 July 1904.

[35] Gerald Duckworth published two books of Coburn portraits: Men of Mark (1913) and More Men of Mark (1922).

[36] The Octagon’s hall, the lone survivor of a ‘chapel of ease’ in the city, opened in 1767 as ‘the only safe place of worship in Bath as there are no steps to climb and no bodies buried below’. Sir William Herschel, John Herschel’s father and a Bath resident, played the organ at the Octagon when he wasn’t surveying the night skies.

[37] ‘Cash appeal for photographic centre in Bath’. Page 4, The Times, 14 June 1978.

[38] Page 71, Volume 119, The Photographic Journal, May/June 1979 and ‘Annual Report for the Council, Year ending 31 December 1979’, Page 124, Volume 120 The Photographic Journal 1980. The RPS also gave “a most impressive display of its historic treasures” at the Daily Express sponsored Photoworld photographic fair at Olympia in 1979 where “thousands of photographic enthusiasts” attracted to the Society’s Milestones of Photography stand were told about “the Society and its plans for the future”.

[39] Article ‘Discovering the RPS Collection: The RPS Librarian/Prints & Books … tells of what she found whilst cataloguing the RPS collection’, page 170 (96), Volume 126, The Photographic Journal, April 1986.

[40] ‘Royal Variety Act’, a five-star review of the exhibition Unknown Pleasures at the NMM, Bradford by Joanna Pitman, The Times, page 17, 28 January 2003.

[41] President’s Report, page 37 (67), Volume 143 RPS Journal, March 2003.

[42] “Is it, I ask, as has been said, an octopus with no nervous system? Pause. “I think Amanda Neville [the incoming director, imported from the lively National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford] is going to be a real force and a real leader.” Andrew Billen meets BFI Chairman Anthony Minghella. Page 4, The Times, 19 May 2003.

[43] Amanda Neville was Secretary of the RPS from 1990 to 1994 and ran the RPS National Photographic Centre exhibition space from 1985.

[44] Page 20 and Note 7 page 142, A.H.Layard, ‘Publications of the Arundel Society: Fresco Painting’, Quarterly Review CIV (October 1858), Julia Margaret Cameron 1815-1879 (1984) by Mike Weaver.

[45] The Victorian Photographs exhibition at the V&A during the Festival of Britain was Gernsheim’s idea and execution. V&A Director Sir Leigh Ashton was against the idea of a Victorian salon being included in the show. Gernsheim got Ashton’s friend Lady Rothermenre to declare it “Wonderful”. Berkowitz wonders whether Ashton resented Gernsheim’s manipulation of the situation to achieve his ends. Victorian Photographs ran from 1 May to 11 October 1951.

[46] In My Message To Bradford, a blog entry on the NMM web site, NMM Director Jo Quinton-Tulloch admitted to a further cut in running costs and “the difficult job of making some reductions in staffing”.

Julia Margaret Cameron and Britain’s Photographic Heritage
All photos and text © 2016 Graham Harrison

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