Essay Example on Analyse Julia Margaret Cameron’s illustration of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere









This essay will analyse Julia Margaret Cameron’s illustration of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere to Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Other Poems guided by Lister and Wells 2004 methodology and template for the visual analysis I will elaborate how the Cameron's ideas are reflected in her photographic practice and contextualise this image within her body of works This consists of the context of how we encounter the image the context of production how the image can be read and how the viewer could be positioned in relation to the image This photograph fairly and beautifully represents Cameron s characteristic photographic style a leading influence of the pictorialist movement in the nineteenth century This includes discussion of the context in which we encounter the image how the image came to be produced a discussion of how the image can be read and some consideration of how the viewer is positioned in relation to the image I will contextualise this portrait within Nadar s overall practice and the wider context of their time and place In the centre of the picture Figure 1 rests Guinevere s tilting head as though in sleep Her soft slightly out of focus face reflects a holy glow and appears peaceful Reminiscent of Mary Magdalene and Madonna and Child a recurring theme in Cameron s photography see Figure 2 her head is upon Lancelot s chest close to his heart transforming Lancelot into a Christ figure Juxtaposing Guinevere in dark garments his eyes are open in solemn contemplation he echoes the suggestion that Christ knows his own fate whereas Guinevere is a shining light in their dark surroundings 

In spite of their uncertain future in embrace together they are ethereal and peaceful This photograph is accessible as a high resolution scan on the Getty Museum online catalogue We can zoom in on the image with a closeness that isn t possible if the photograph is viewed in person At the age of 48 Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera as a gift from her daughter and son in law with the words It may amuse you Mother to try to photograph during your solitude Victoria and Albert Museum n d So began her photographic career She made literary mythological and allegorical photographs aplenty their fantastical elements enhanced by her unconventional approach to capture and processing as though she is embracing the status of lady amatuer inconsistency of focus that Cameron also celebrates in Annals of My Glass House the traces of the uneven flow of collodion across her glass negative along with the strands of hair caught in the emulsion and the cracks in the plate found in others are dramatized against all the rules of proper technique but in favor of showing the magic of the photograph s making its development one might say of the child of light in the womb of chemistry Armstrong 2000 p 101 Cameron s costumes unusual props such as a poker for King Arthur s sceptre infamously bossy and perfectionist staging and direction and obedient sitters and inexact photographic techniques transformed her friends and family into iconic literary and biblical characters Most photographed was her maid Mary Hillier Figure 2 who Cameron acted the part of mother more often than her own daughter and Julia Prinsep Jackson Duckworth Stephen her sister s daughter and mother of Virginia Woolf She was photographed over time eighteen round faced before her marriage last at twenty eight four years widowed and four years before her remarriage Cameron s photographs generalised stages of womanhood maidenhood marriage and widowhood proposing an intimate link between the space of the amateur and the realm of the maternal Armstrong 2000 p 101 

A devout Christian the motif of Madonna and Child Figure 2 held particular significance for Cameron who was the mother of six She aspired to make High Art to create photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive Victoria and Albert Museum n d My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real Ideal sacrificing nothing of Truth by all possible devotion to poetry and beauty Weiss 2015 p 5 How did the photograph come to be made What is the significance of that context The photograph may be attractive and stand out to admirers of Cameron s work because the affection is between man and woman not females exclusively as dominates her photography This show of love is clearly sexual and romantic unlike the playful ambiguity of her children adolescents and women This photograph marries her virginal nymphets and handsome patriarch subjects into a balanced relationship of yin and yang composition that is innately appealing We view a beautiful intimate moment between the lovers who represent a romantic fairytale ideal of true love The scene can trigger envy desire and loneliness in the viewer as it tempts us to fantasise ourselves in the situation

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