Today I took myself off to the Art Gallery of NSW to see an exhibition of photographic works by Julia Margaret Cameron. This exhibition had been on my hit list for the last few months, and today (on its final day) I went! You see, Julia has been one of my foundational photographic inspirations since I first started studying at uni all those years ago. I was drawn to her images, and swept up into them. I loved the movement, the emotion, the haunting like quality, the beauty, the mystery. I’ve kept photocopies of her photographs since those uni days, and today I got to see the prints with my very own eyes. What a joy.
Julia was a 19th century photographer who started shooting at the age of 48. A christian mother of six, Julia illustrated spiritual themes throughout much of her work. Julia’s approach was unconventional, and attracted her fair share of critics. Many mocked her out of focus images, believing that she lacked ability or technique. Yet Julia was purposely breaking the rules, choosing to create beauty in an image rather than perfect focus. She was an artist who had enough belief in her own ability and creativity to be true to herself and her art.
Julia is still known today as one of the most influential photographers of her time. Just being immersed in her art and creativity today made me somehow feel like I got to rub shoulders with her, and glean from who she was. So what can we learn from this lady’s life and art? Here are just a few of the lessons I learnt today from being up close and personal with Julia Margaret Cameron..
- Have confidence in your creative instinct. Julia knew what she liked when she was creating her work. She knew what was beautiful to her, and she trusted in that (over what was technically “right” and “wrong”).
- Not everyone will “get” your work. Julia had plenty of critics who didn’t “get” her work, but she didn’t let that stop her doing what was right for her. Art is subjective, and as artists we need to accept that some people will hate what we do, but others (thankfully) will love it.
- She engaged with those she could learn from and be encouraged by. Julia often sought the opinion of her mentor, artist George Frederick Watts. She desired to keep improving, and be the best she could be. He was also one of her greatest encouragers and supporters.
- Think big and believe in yourself. Julia believed in her work, and wanted to share it with the world. In a proposal letter to have her work exhibited in the South Kensington Museum she wrote “..my late series of photographs that I intend should electrify you with delight and startle the world.” ” ..like have never been produced & never can be surpassed!” Now that’s confidence right there! Who would say ‘no’ to that!
So to all you artists, designers, photographers, singers, dancers, songwriters, musicians, creative genius’s….. be true to your own art. It’s great to be inspired by others, as long as we don’t try to be them. We only need to be ourselves, cos no one else can do what you do. The world needs YOUR art, that carries YOUR story.
YOU have a story to tell xx