MScR Dissertation Submission


This week I finished and submitted my Art History dissertation for my MScR in Collections and Curating Practices, which was titled: 
Elaines and Ophelias, Mothers and May Queens: Comparative Representations of Women in the Photography and Practice of Julia Margaret Cameron and Henry Peach Robinson

I'm very happy with how it turned out.  There was a lot of restructuring towards the end as the dissertation evolved to become more about the photographers themselves, rather than simply their photographs as I had originally intended.  However, I came to a lot of conclusions that I am proud of regarding how Cameron and Robinson not only showed their different ideas about women's power dynamics in the domestic sphere and the impact of unrequited love on men and women as visible through interpretation of their images, but also how the photography practices and the signature photography techniques of each photographer were gendered in themselves.  

For example, in these two images of the same Arthurian character of Elaine, Robinson's photograph (bottom) emphasizes Elaine's devotion to Lancelot through showing her fixated on the shield he has left behind for her to guard, while Cameron's photograph (top) has Elaine's focus on the shield cover she has made for Lancelot, showing the same devotion through the lens of domesticity rather than outright hero worship.  
Stylistically, the viewer can see Cameron's signature aestheticized focus, which she maintained throughout her career despite many critics, and Robinson's devotion to painting principles, which he strongly advocated photography should always follow throughout his career, again, despite many critics.  

Cameron and Robinson were very similar in many ways, despite their extreme dislike of each others' work.  Most importantly, both pushed to elevate photography beyond functioning as a scientific means of reproduction, beyond being recognized as an art, and into the territory it occupies today as a "high art."  

I feel I've gotten to know both Cameron and Robinson so well throughout this project, and I also came across so much that I didn't get a chance to fit into my 15,000 words.  I'm excited to expand upon some of those things in my PhD (which starts next week already), and I'm looking forward to working with these guys and their gorgeous images for many years to come. 

Cameron, Julia Margaret. Elaine, the Lily Maid of Astolat. Albumen Print. 1874. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Robinson, Henry Peach. Elaine Watching the Shield of Lancelot. Toned Albumen Print. 1859/60. The Royal Photographic Society



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