PORTLAND – During her lifetime, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was recognized as one of the leading portrait photographers of her era. She is known for assembling photographic albums as invitations to friends and family to collaborate in her artistic aspirations. This summer the Portland Museum of Art will present one of these albums, a series of 70 photographs taken by this Victorian photographer.
Images from “For My Best Beloved Sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron,” a rarely seen and privately owned album, will be on view July 4 through Sept, 7.
This album, made for her sister, Maria Jackson (affectionately known as Mia), includes family portraits and allegorical works, such as her famous series on Mia’s daughter, who later became the mother of the writer Virginia Woolf. The album also features portraits of some of the most celebrated figures of Victorian England – among them poet Alfred Tennyson and the pre-Raphaelite painter George Frederic Watts. The pictures range from Cameron’s earliest camera successes to her late mature work. In addition, Cameron collected work by her colleagues, including O. G. Rejlander, one of the first to promote photography as an art form, and Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Cameron presented the album, bound in rich green leather, as a gift to Mia on July 7, 1863. The date of the album is telling, for it coincides with the nascent phase of Cameron’s photographic activities. Although separated by time and distance, the two sisters collaborated in the album’s assembly over the course of a decade.
The album stands as a record of the sisters’ immediate and extended family, Cameron’s social and artistic circle and the surroundings of her home, Dimbola at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, England. It demonstrates how photographs, viewed either individually or collectively, intertwine reality and illusion, fostering the sisters’ own mythic conception of family life and its traditions.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a series of 28 photographs by Joyce Tenneson will be on view on the museum’s fourth floor. One of the country’s leading contemporary portrait photographers, Joyce Tenneson is in many ways a modern-day version of Cameron. “Joyce Tenneson: Polaroid Portraits” will be view July 11 through Oct. 4.

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