Annals of My Glass House

Julia Margaret Cameron is a hero of mine. She is an inspiration to follow one’s passion no matter when in life you find it, to find supporters for one’s endeavors, and to make progress in the pursuit of art through determination and hard work.

The Internet is a great resource for photography and opens up many early sources if you know to look for them. One interesting find is the brief unpublished record of Cameron’s first ten years in photography – Annals of My Glass House. She is disarming in her practical approach to setting up a workspace for her new hobby:

I turned my coal-house into my dark room, and a glazed fowl-house I had given to my children became my glass house! The hens were liberated, I hope and believe not eaten. The profit of my boys upon new laid eggs was stopped, and all hands and hearts sympathized in my new labour, since the society of hens and chickens was soon changed for that of poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens, who all in turn have immortalized the humble little farm erection.

The “glass house” is of course the natural light studio in which Cameron created many of her images. Her nonchalant brush off in her brief memoir of the rejection of her work by some conservative bodies then governing photography and instead focusing on her achievements and progress is refreshing. 
She seems to have two major subjects for her photography, constructed scenes such as Whisper of the Muse, and intensely psychological portraits. Her portrait of John Herschel is powerful, immediate, and piercing in its gaze on her mentor and friend. Her unconventional focus technique, her closeness – bordering on intrusiveness – to her subjects, and her unwavering vision make her portrait work speak more to our sensibilities today than to her near contemporaries who quickly forgot her.
Cameron emerged from obscurity in the 20th century, and her work can be seen in many collections.

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