Photography: Artistic Outlet

Photography opened up a wide range of opportunities for artistic outlet. Commercialization of this new form of portraiture satisfied the public demand for permanently captured images. More importantly, the new technologies associated with this new form of photography dramatically affected societies around the world in a number of ways.

Early photography, although intriguing, lacked advanced technologies that were greatly needed. Through experimentation, many improvements were made to the photographic process. For example, exposure time was shortened, posing became less rigid, and there was not such an overdependence on light anymore. Photographs could now come in a range of sizes and transferred onto various materials making this art form exceptionally appealing to the public.

As stated in our lecture discussion, “the sea of images in which we dwell began with the success of the commercial portrait.” In other words, this new form of portraiture ultimately changed society.

This new form of portraiture strengthened society’s culture. Photographs were now able to be placed into albums and books, enabling individuals to gain access to new knowledge. Also, since photographs could be sent through the mail, many people could send pictures to families and friends, thus strengthening communication between societies.

Photography also solidified the economy. Inexpensive production and reduced exposure time allowed output to increase, ultimately creating a range of choices for the buyer. Not only did it expand choices for the buyer, it also enlarged the target market. In other words, early portraits could only be afforded by the rich, but due to less expensive production means and materials being used, a person from any class in society could afford a portrait now. The commercialization of this new form of portraiture ultimately led to a boom in economy through artistry.

Not only did portraiture affect culture and economy, it also affected the individuals in society from a personal standpoint. It allowed people to view themselves more realistically. The new form displayed more expressive talents from photographers, thus increasing human interpretation of photographs that were taken. Such intense expressive photography can be found in the idealistic portraits created by Juliet Margaret Cameron.

Juliet Margaret Cameron is regarded as one of the most notable females associated with photography, especially during a time where the field predominantly consisted of men. She worked with the colloidal process and focused on creating Victorian style portraiture. Her unique romantic and religious styles made Cameron become very well known.

Cameron came from a deeply religious background which, in turn, served as a basis for her portraits. She was primarily interested in trying to show the ideal being or inner spirit of her subjects. There is an evident passion and intimacy that is conveyed through her photographs. She used dramatic lighting and avoided sharp focus of the lens. The avoidance of sharp focus created a slight blurring of fine details in the picture to display a “softer” look to her portraits. Up until this point in time, the Daguerreotype method was extremely popular due to its ability to capture minute details. Cameron was one of the first people to stray from this traditional style of photography. Cameron’s photographs all seem to enhance the inner character of an individual instead of their outside appearance, ultimately idealizing them. The end result of her photographs created a romantic and almost heavenly feeling in anyone who looked at them. An example of her idealistic photographic style can be found on page 75 of the textbook, entitled Sir John Herschel. Even though Herschel was not typically “good looking,” Cameron was able to capture his intense inner beauty and character through her ingenious use of the camera. I believe that one of her best photographs was the one displayed on page 76 of the textbook, entitled My Niece Julia Jackson. Julia was one of Cameron’s favorite subjects. This picture shows that Cameron used both excellent manipulation of lighting and a dramatic pose to capture the “ideal” form of her niece.

I believe Cameron was a visionary in the field of photography. Her distinctive artistic expressions are found in every portrait that she has done. Her work displays several differences from traditional styles of photography, making her truly ahead of her time.

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