Julia Margaret Cameron: Julia Jackson 1867; Lancelot & Guinevere 1874;

Dora Maar: Double Portrait 1936;             Kati Horna: Remedios Varo 1957

‘Behind the Mask’: Part 1

Julia Margaret Cameron, born in India, was a natural photographer, though she took it up late in life. In her short lived career of 11 years she produced some moving portraits and ‘tableaux’. Her depictions of her niece Julia Jackson (mother of Virginia Woolf) with long flowing hair and unmade looks, could have been taken in the sixties, it is so free and natural. She took to the camera like a duck to water. As she said ‘Photography was like water to my parched lips’. Heavily criticized for her inclusion of imperfections such as blurs and out of focus, she was nevertheless much appreciated by the radical Pre-Raphaelites with whose romantic style she ha much in common. And they loved long loose hair too! Half in shadow, half in light, Julia’s face expresses two sides of her personality long before the advent of Freud and psychoanalysis. Cameron also had a penchant for dressing folk up in Medieval guise to form literary tableaux (see above, Lancelot and Guinevere).
Subsequent women photographers have developed both concepts – that of the disguise and of the two personas. Surrealists such as Kati Horna and Dora Maar (above), have both made the message more overt. The Surrealists of course were obsessed with the idea of the subconscious, irrational part of the psyche in which dwells the dream-life and imagination. This is the dark side. Interesting that Cameron as early at the late 19th century preempts this. And in a way the Pre-Raphaelites who she was closely involved with, did too. They often depicted sleepy young women in a reverie, suggesting their dreams were of more value than their conscious life. These are the very beginnings of Surrealism.