British photographic history

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The exhibition "For my best beloved Sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia M... has just opened yesterday.

Considered by many photo historians to be one of photography’s early masters, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) is one of the best-known photographers of the Victorian era. The majority of the 70 photographs in the Mia album are by her, which contains mages of family, friends, neighbours and portraits of luminaries like her Isle of Wight neighbor Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt.

However, the album also includes a number of photographs attributed to others, most significantly among them pioneering photographer Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813–1875) of a startlingly fresh image of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his family from 1862. It was included in the section of the Mia album which Cameron devoted to other photographers and peers she admired.

In Rejlander’s family portrait, Tennyson the patriarch is the star, the center of his adoring family, who
hold onto him as he moves with confidence through a park-like setting, rendered romantic and evocative because of its soft focus. The quality of light framing the figures and dancing off the greenery feels like a blessing or validation of this most esteemed of Victorian poets. Rejlander is a significant figure in the history of photography. Like Julia Margaret Cameron, Rejlander worked to establish photography as an art form in its own right and experimented with both the technical aspects of the medium and subject matter. The Mia album contains a number of examples of his work and even prints likely made in collaboration with Cameron.

Photos: "The Kiss of Peace," was made in 1869 by Cameron. At left is Mary Hillier, one of the photographer's servants, and Elizabeth Koewen, a local woman from the town of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. The scene was inspired by the Biblical story of the Visitation.
Oscar Gustave Rejlander (Swedish, 1813–1875), Lionel, Emily, Alfred and Hallam Tennyson, circa 1862. Albumen print from wet plate collodion negative, 6 3/8 x 5 ½ inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg, courtesy art2art Circulating Exhibitions.

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