Gerry Loban

Gerry joined the PHSC in 1977. I can remember in the 1980s he had a booth at the Markham fair where he took old-fashioned sepia toned portraits using period costumes and a Polaroid back on a press camera. His fascination with portraits led to studying early photographers including his favourite, Julia Margaret Cameron.

In his talk, Gerry makes two key points about her work: Firstly, technically they were poorly done - exposure and focus off at times, dust spots, imperfect coatings (JMC photographed during the wet-plate era). But secondly, the composition and subject matter was outstanding!

At a time when contemporaries did mostly full body portraits with ornate props and backgrounds, JMC did close-ups with minimal props that look modern and timeless as you can see in the examples below taken from Gerry's slide presentation. JMC was unusual in other ways. Women photographers were rare. Those who took up the art in their late 40s rarer still!

JMC was born Julia Margaret Pattle In Calcutta, India where her father was in the Bengal civil service. Gerry tells us that she married Charles Hay Cameron in 1838 when she was 22 and he 44. The Camerons moved to England in 1848, settling 11 years later in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.

The Camerons converted two cottages into an estate called Dimbola after one of their estates in Ceylon. There they entertained many of the famous people of the day, names known world wide. JMC was strong willed and outgoing, enjoying the intellectual stimulation of these poets, actors, and scientists.

Her life changed forever in 1864 when she received the gift of a wet-plate camera from her daughter and son-in-law. She took to photography with a passion. Gerry reminded us that photography in 1864 meant making your own plates and processing them before the emulsion dried and the plates lost their sensitivity. Exposures where made by guess and experience. Prints from the contrasty slow speed wet-plates were made on printing out paper (salt paper) that used bright sun to bring out the image with no developing step. Suitable images were fixed with hypo.

She took portraits of the famous people of the time seeming to show their inner strengths and character. Alternately she pressed servants and neighbours into dressing and posing individually and in groups, often creating a tableau reminiscent of a painting or scene in a play. She entered her images in many exhibitions and was delighted when they were praised and furious when they were criticized.

The Camerons returned to Ceylon in 1875. JMC died a few years later in 1879. Indifferent about her negatives, few if any have survived to this day. Her decade of photographic artistry received attention once again in the early 1920s through the efforts of her great-niece, Virginia Woolf.

If you missed Gerry's presentation or would like more information on JMC, there are many books (e.g. The Magic Image by Beaton and Buckland) and web sites available (Wight Online, JMC Trust, Masters of Photography, etc.). Search Google for other sites.

Well that's it for this month. If you have any questions, you can contact Gerry. The images on this page were taken with a Nikon 990 digital camera directly from the screen during the presentation and adjusted in Photoshop. This is the first time I've used ImageReady to slice and optimize a large image to make the page load faster. Click on any small image to see it larger in a separate window. Please note this page is ©2003 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used if the source is mentioned.

Bob Carter

Back to Past Programs

return to the home page
Main Index
Facelift & Design © 1999 Zero Cattle
Page © 2003 by The Photographic Historical Society of Canada
Webmaster: Bob Carter
-- See What's New for more details

Lost?   Find your way with our Site Map!