‘Portraits To Dream In’: Julia Margaret Cameron & Francesca Woodman

22nd March 2024
Francesca Woodman

‘Portraits to Dream In’ is a new exhibition, opened at The National Portrait Gallery, presenting the work of two of the biggest names in photography, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) and Francesca Woodman (1958-81).

Cameron was a member of the Victorian elite, who taught herself photography at the age of 48, mastering both the wet collodion process and albumen printing. Whereas American photographer, Woodman, started taking photographs at 13 years-old, and continued to do so until she took her own life, aged 22. Both artists produced their bodies of work in less than 15 years, and their photographs were little known in their respective lifetimes. Their legacies, however, have long outlived them both.

Julia Margaret Cameron

Curator, Magdalene Keaney, brings together Cameron’s large, sepia-toned albumen prints with Woodman’s small, square-format silver gelatin prints, alongside a selection of Woodman’s lesser-known diazotype prints. All-in-all, the exhibition boasts a staggering number of exquisite vintage prints, approximately 160 in total.

The display reveals surprising connections between these two pioneering female artists, revealing them as kindred spirits. For The Guardian, Charlotte Jansen writes, “Though Woodman worked a century after Cameron and on another continent, the parallels between the two are astonishing. They share, for first instance, visual quirks – the exhibition pairs photographs by each that use umbrellas as props. They also shared a love of role-play and power dynamics”.

For The Telegraph, Alastair Sooke observes, “Emblem-like lilies feature in photographs by both artists. The polka-dot pattern of a dress worn by Woodman in a shot from 1976 picks up the design of wallpaper in Cameron’s adjacent Sadness (1864).” Another similarity, highlighted by Keaney’s curation, is a shared interest in angels and the supernatural. “Both photographers used soft-focus effects to convey a sense of something beautiful and otherworldly”, says Sooke. Cameron and Woodman shared a sensibility, their work is “dreamy and intense, sophisticated, romantic – and tinged with melancholy.”

For the full articles, click through to The Guardian The Telegraph.



Join Our Mailing List

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know with all the latest from our community.

By continuing to use this site you consent with our cookie policy.