Friday 27 May 2016

Review: Alice Through The Looking Glass

As you know, I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  When Disney made the first of the new Alice films a couple of years ago I was delighted.  Until I saw it.  Then I was puzzled.  I could not understand why they would call the film Alice in Wonderland when it was not the book and more to the point I was worried people would think that was the story Carroll wrote rather than read the book itself.  Anyway, I got over myself and now am okay with it.  Well, sort of because I still don't understand Johnny Depp's random Scottish accent or the dance at the end. Anyway, when they announced they were making Alice Through the Looking Glass I was obviously curious...

So, today being the 27th May, we took ourselves off to the local multiplex and here is my review...

Alice Through the Looking Glass illustration by John Tenniel
Firstly, a summary - We join Alice as she is captaining a ship through rocky seas pursued by pirates. Back in London she returns home (in trousers and without a hat, but I'm coping with that in my own way) and her mother informs her that in her absence things have been going somewhat wrong. Time is moving on and things are not improving for the family but Alice is convinced that she, a trouser-clad female ships captain can only succeed in Victorian society. Hmmmm...

The Hatter, still a touch mad (and Scottish)
I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that it does not go well and Alice takes refuge in Wonderland once more, seeking out her old friends only to find that things are not going any better there.  Hatter is fading fast and the only thing that can save him is a reversal in time, but Time himself is not about to let some funny dressed girl mess about with his cogs.  Also, Alice is not the only one who wants to turn back time...

Is Time a Thief and a Friend to No-one?
Anyway, much high jinks and revelations ensue, including an explanation about the size of a certain person's head.  We race from past to present, from London to the seas of Time via an asylum, to discover what is true and what isn't.  Like the first film, the visual experience is astonishing, each part of Wonderland gloriously rendered and filled with characters, some new, some very familiar...

Off with their heads!
In order to enjoy Alice Through the Looking Glass you have to let go of any thought that it is related to the book.  Both of the new films are beautiful, funny, and exciting and are an intriguing use of the characters and the idea of Wonderland. The special effects are very special and everyone is acting their socks off.  Some bits are genuinely moving beyond what you would expect and you will leave happy.  However, the purist in me is sad that the point of the books is missed - Alice doesn't belong in Wonderland, she is constantly puzzled and contradicting everything and everyone.  It is not meant to make sense or make her feel at home.  I have always suspected Carroll was making a point about how he felt in the normal world, how he never felt he could fit in nor understand what everyone else considered 'normal life'.  It is absolutely Alice's feeling of utter bewilderment shared with us as the reader which is Carroll's way of showing us what his life is like.  Looking Glass has been interpreted as a very pointed attack by Carroll at being excluded from the society in Freshwater (Red Queen being Cameron, the White King being Tennyson etc) which I find deliciously true.  Carroll writes what it is like to be an outsider and it's a shame that isn't translated onto the screen.

Terrifying Chess!
In conclusion, if you liked the first one, you'll like this one and there is much to like.  Helena Bonham Carter once more proves why she is a national treasure and the bits in Victorian London are full of actors who will leave you saying 'Oh it's her/him...'  There are enough references to the original books to cheer you up if you are sad about the deviations and hopefully it will draw people to the original source material.  All in all a jolly couple of hours and an escape from all the politics which can only be a good thing.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is available nationwide from today.

Monday 23 May 2016


As you have all witnessed, I love to sing.  Even on these otherwise silent pages there is no escape, as I proved in this post.  Good Lord, the horror, imagine living with me.  I've been singing in public since I was a teenager - then it was our local operatics group.  Exhibit A is my family in costume while doing My Fair Lady (or My Dolly Palone, as we called it).  Lawks.

Mum, Dad, Big Brother Niall, Sister in Law Antonia, and Me
These days I tend to limit my concerts to my car during commutes, where I can be as loud as I like, but all this self-indulgent rambling brings me to the subject of today's post: Singing in pictures...

Harmony (1879) Jean Carolus
As I mentioned in this post about musicians in paintings, it's a bit of a strange thing to do, render something visually which can only be experienced by another sense. Singing is another step on from playing a musical instrument because it is even harder to show that the singer is doing anything.  Look at the lass above holding the sheet music.  She appears to be trying to remember what she planned to have for tea.  Come on, put a bit of effort into it...

Fiammetta Singing (1879) Marie Spartali Stillman
It helps if you have someone there with a lute to accompany you as you stare wistfully into the distance and clasp your hands.  It is sometimes difficult to know what to do with your hands when singing unless you have a microphone to hold or scarves to whisk around your head.  Fiammetta has gone with grasping them in front of her and hoping no-one notices how sweaty her palms are.  She also looks like she has forgotten the words.  Poor love.

Girl Singing Emilie Isabel Barrington
Now I hate to argue with Ms Barrington, but her girl is not singing unless she is a ventriloquist.  This is a problem with many 'singing' pictures - they are actually people waiting to sing. She's got her music and everything but her mouth is not open enough for anyone to hear her.  Maybe she's a nice lady-like singer because it isn't strictly necessary to be as loud as me.  The Stonell Family are known for volume.  We're great at funerals.

The Gentle Music of  a Bygone Day (1873) John Roddam Spencer Stanhope
Now, Stanhope's lass actually looks like she's singing, although her posture is all wrong (sorry to be picky).  She'd do better sitting up or standing, rather than bending over her music.  Mind you, they are a fairly slouchy pair as her backing musician is leaning against a tree.  They knew how to rock out in the bygone era.  No sleep 'til the Reformation! Or something...

The Music Lesson Federico Andreotti
I grant you that having a good singing voice seems to be a sure fire way to get attention from the opposite sex.  As this couple of ladies above are proving, put in the effort to improve your voice and the chaps will be all over you like powder on a wig.  Maybe they are trying to pull their music teacher?  I especially suspect the girl in the blue dress as that does seem to be quite low cut and there is quite a lot of deep breathing in singing, if you know what I mean.  I would suggest bending over a little to look at your music occasionally.  Just saying.

The Misses Santley (1880) Henry Scott Tuke
I don't mean to cast aspersions, but the Misses Santley do not look like they are enjoying their singing one little bit.  Maybe they are being forced to sing something very dull - when I had singing lessons I was made to sing 'Flow Gently Sweet Afton' which can cure you of ever wanting to sing again.  Maybe they had got overexcited by the thought that a handsome young artist was coming to their home to paint them. They'd be a little out of luck with Mr Tuke. As for poor Mr Tuke, he knows that somewhere there is a lovely warm beach with some semi-naked chaps that are going unpainted.  Damn it.

The Singer (1880) Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta
I love this picture because she looks rather game.  She's got her ankles out and so we can assume she's on the stage (rather than on the game).  She has a bit of a bustle going on and her corset top is really pretty.  However, I wonder how singing in a corset works?  Where does all the air go?  Do you just pop out the top?  I was taught to sing from the middle but she doesn't really have a middle anymore as it's all squashed in, so she must either train around that or just sing from her chest, which probably pleases the audience more anyway. Take a nice deep breath and I bet you get an encore...

Two Girls Singing Giovanni Costa
Unlike images of young ladies playing music, singing has a slightly less clear cut meaning.  Playing an instrument is presumed to take more effort and talent as anyone can just open their mouths and sing, especially in private.  We have no idea how good these two girls are at singing, but it does not have the 'improving' quality of playing the piano, for instance, and leans more towards the alluring qualities of womanhood.  But there is also the notion of 'angelic voices', the idea that a woman with a beautiful voice is also pure and innocent, which I think probably applies to the shiny duo above.  I doubt they are singing that filthy song I learnt at school about what happens in meadows.

The Blind Singer Felice Castignaro
A good singing voice can also lend itself as a counterpoint to the singers appearance.  The blind singer above looks like a beggar with their sighted companion, yet it is easy to assume the sound coming from his or her lips (we don't even know if it is a girl or boy) transcends this terrible, grubby, unfair world.  There is something about wonderful singing that can move you to tears - the emotion, the inflection in the voice, the ability to infuse each sound with a myriad of feelings that cannot be expressed in the words alone. I remember being about 14 years old and singing 'Hail Poetry...' from The Pirates of Penzance and just feeling amazing.  The layering of sound completely wraps you up and you are creating this enormous voice that has such depth it is breathtaking. Sometimes singing can feel like you are holding an object in your hands and slowly running your fingers over it with every note you sing.  It is a thing of smoothness, of curves and dips and you have to touch it ever so gently, but just running your fingers over it is the most beautiful experience you can imagine (with your clothes on).  Actually, there are times when you hold a note so long that you become marvellously breathless and a bit euphoric and singing is a little bit naughty, which is why I was so glad to see this image...

Mrs George Batten (1897) John Singer Sargent
I'm a little in love with Mabel Hatch (or Mrs George Batten as she was also known).  The singer and society beauty had this rather saucy portrait done by Sargent whilst she was singing. It's not the insane tininess of her waist or her hand resting on her hip, nor her low neckline that makes this a very sexy portrait, but her expression which is a smidge wanton. Or it might just be that she is closing her eyes while singing and I'm not meant to be thinking about orgasms at all. Ahem...

Mabel Veronica Batten (1893) Violet Manners
There are many reasons why Mrs George Batten is my favourite image of a singer, including the fact that it does not appear to be a picture designed to flatter.  Of course it does flatter, it makes Mrs Batten look so gorgeous that both Mr Walker and I said 'flippin' heck!' in front of the painting at the recent exhibition at the NPG.  But it appears to show a woman singing without acknowledgement that we are watching, that she is lost in the sound of her voice and it makes us long to hear her.  The singer on the canvas has closed her eyes, a visual image of a woman who is not seeing.  Much like the image of the blind singer above, it is about the sound, a sense we cannot use in our appreciation of the image.  Of course with Mrs Batten, we are left imaging that her voice is as beautiful as her face.  My goodness, can you imagine?

'Thy Voice is like to Music heard ere Birth...' (1902) Sigismund Goetze
So, we can agree that it is a challenge to show singing in paintings.  It is hard to show someone singing realistically in a static, silent image, and it can end up looking a little odd like Goetze slightly creepy offering above.  It can appear somewhat indecorous to show a woman with her mouth open in an image that is about the beauty and refinement of the people involved.  Singing is angelic, pure and as heavenly as angels (who are often singing) but is also a physical act that can be very physical indeed if you are going to do it well and loudly.  It can be argued by the range of pictures that Victorian artists struggled to combine the two sides of song, both heaven and earth, and decide whether the woman singing is doing it for the pleasure of man or God.  While you are pondering that, I'm off to finish the time machine so I can go and sing a duet with Mabel Batten.  

That's not a euphemism, honest...

Thursday 19 May 2016

A Highly Remunerative Notoriety

Whilst researching many and varied things, I came across a very modern literary affair that is all but forgotten now.  I expect some of you clever lot have read The Silver Domino (available to download here) but I had been unaware of it until it cropped up in my Tennyson research.  Today's post therefore is about fame, critical reviews and how Tennyson held the key to the identity of one of the most notorious writers of the 1890s...

In the second edition of The Silver Domino from November 1892, a review is quoted as saying:

The unknown author of the 'Silver Domino' has been good enough to send me his book, which is very bright and amusing and outspoken.  he has his knife into a great many people (The World, October 10th)

First published in October of 1892, The Silver Domino was an anonymous review of the contemporary literary scene with its irreverent tongue firmly in its cheek.  The author simultaneously ripped into author and critic, publisher and journalist and a great many people in public life.  The tone swung between fond teasing to down right rudeness: Oscar Wilde, the 'Social Elephant', is described as fat, Swinburne is a toad with a jewel in his head and so on.  The passages on Kipling begin as flattery but roll on so unstoppably that you are left in no doubt of over-excited critics who wish to 'blow his skin out into the sizer of a bull'.  By the end of that section it is noted that Kipling is old news as Eden Phillpots has been hailed 'the new Kipling'. Ouch, so much for reviewers...

Rudyard Kipling: Yesterday's Eden Phillpots
Eden Phillpotts: Hotter than Kipling

As a writer I found The Silver Domino both terrifying and hilarious because it shows how perverse readers (especially those who feel entitled to publicly comment on your work) can be.  I have had all manner of reviews, good, bad and frankly perverse, one that mentioned my awesome eyebrows, and you have to learn to take it all the same. At the same time it teaches you to exercise the same caution in your reviews as you would wish people to show you.  I have only ever received nice reviews from people I know, which is both smashing and also reassures me that I know sensible people who understand that if you don't like a book, it's massively egotistical and rude to slam it and the author in public.  It is therefore unsurprising that the question on everyone's lips was 'who is the Silver Domino?'

Henry Labouchere, possible Domino...
As soon as it was published, the press went wild with speculation - 'Considerable excitement has been aroused in literary circles by a work entitled "The Silver Domino" ... the writer is evidently on terms of acquaintance, if not familiarity, with several distinguished persons and has many grudges to wipe off against these men of letters who are also occupied in criticism.' (Manchester Courier, 28 October 1892).  Many men were suspected of the hatchet job, including Herbert Vivian and Henry Labouchere MP, both editors of magazines, but a whisper arose that the hand that held the poison pen belonged to Queen Victoria's favourite novelist, Miss Marie Corelli...

Marie Corelli (1897) Helen Donald-Smith
Corelli is all but forgotten now, which should be a sage reminder of the fickleness of public taste.  In 1892 she was one of the biggest selling and most beloved writers in the country.  Her books flew off the shelves in edition after edition and despite the negative reviews and critical dismissal, she was more popular than any of her male counterparts.  She was so well known that she was the alleged basis for the character of Lucia in Mapp and Lucia and the flighty female novelist in Angel  by Elizabeth Taylor.  Born the wrong side of the blanket, Isabella Mary Mills managed to straighten out her reputation via a finishing school and a change of name.  As Marie Corelli, of dodgy Italian descent, she wrote books that were requested by the Prince of Wales (who briefly romanced her), Queen Margarita of Italy and Queen Victoria, who asked for all of Corelli books to be sent to her on publications.  Her reviews were bad but as Oscar Wilde told her in 1887 'such alot of talking-about-you does more good than an infinite number of bad reviews'.  So, all was prosperous and good until The Silver Domino was published...

Almost immediately Corelli was rumoured to be the author of the book, and just as quickly she denied it.  Although she continued to write novels that the public adored, the bad feeling in the publishing world over the savaging they had received affected Corelli personally.  Her old publisher and friend 'parted company' with her (or dumped her unceremoniously), possibly as a response to the chapter in The Silver Domino 'Describeth the Pious Publisher' which includes the following on the relationship of publisher to lady authors: 'he has no cause to love you or ask the Almighty to look after you, unless he is making a "good thing" out of you... He does not mind lunching with you - oh not at all. And while at luncheon he advises you, patronisingly safely, as to how you should write your next book.' Ouch.

Beatrice finishes her next sex and murder epic...
The description of the treatment of women authors is particularly harrowing: 'He tells them first how well they are looking - his next step is to call them 'my dear' ... Even the fiercest, ugliest "blue stocking" that ever lived is conscious of a nervous quiver through the iron fibres of her soul, when the fat, unctuous, kindly pious publisher, unawed by her stern features, says "my dear"...' (pp.211-216).  No wonder people wanted to know who could publicly say such things, but possibly after reading that the bigger mystery is how they could have imagined it was a man.

Tennyson, probably the only person not suspected of being the Domino...
The argument raged well into the new century and when a new edition of The Silver Domino was published in 1902, the publisher's announced it was "unquestionably a man" who had written it.  By that point, however, a rather interesting piece of evidence had come to light.  In the front of the second edition, published just after the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, there is a note from the author.  Despite the criticism of The Silver Domino being merely a bitch-fest of literary proportions, the author was aggrieved that their chapter on Tennyson had gone unrecognised and unquoted for the love it had shown to the Laureate.  The author felt furthermore that the outpourings of public grief by journalists had lacked the sincerity that The Silver Domino had displayed, as the author claimed friendship with the poet.  To prove this point, a letter is quoted:-
"My dear __, I thank you heartily for your kind letter and welcome gift.  You do well not to care for fame.  Modern fame is too often a mere crown of thorns, and brings all the vulgarity of the world upon you.  I sometimes wish I had never written a line.  Your friend, Tennyson."
Tennyson in his study, avoiding everyone but his dog...
Tennyson commands a lengthy section of The Silver Domino, 'Of Certain Great Poets', about his shunning of public life.  In it, the author pleads with the Laureate to allow a little worship because the public loves him.  It is a really interesting piece because despite the odd cheap joke such as 'I do not want a lock of your hair or your autograph, for the autograph I have in your own letters and certainly you cannot spare any hair just now', it speaks to anyone who has ever hero-worshipped an aloof figure.  With all of The Silver Domino, you are waiting for the knife to go in, but I found it a rather sharp commentary on the relationship of author and reader.  The text argues that readers deserve access to authors on a personal level because they take the time, effort and expense of allowing the author to tell their story.  An audience who expresses nothing but love to an author should be allowed to express that personally or at least the author should acknowledge the truth of the relationship - 'You treat with ill-mannered, 'touch-me-not' disdain the very people whose faithful admiration gives you all the good things of this life which you enjoy.' If you have ever loved an author for the books they wrote and longed to tell them so, The Silver Domino offers a justification for your desires.

Marie Corelli and her gondolier, at Stratford upon Avon.  No, really.
Back to the author.  In 1898, Lady's Realm published a piece on Marie Corelli, quoting a letter she had received from her chum Tennyson, after she had sent him a copy of one of her books.  It didn't take people long to spot that her letter and the one in the front of The Silver Domino were almost identical.  An uproar sprang forth between people mocking Tennyson for being caught writing 'stereotyped form of note to all intrusive literary figures', mocking Corelli for treasuring what amounted to a compliments slip, and those that tentatively suggested that maybe, just maybe it was proof that Corelli was the damned elusive Domino.  With Tennyson deceased and Corelli still living, denying authorship vigorously and able to sue, nobody bothered to press the matter further.  By the time of the next edition in 1902, the author was again thought to be male and that is how it was left, despite people suspecting the truth.  I like The Aberdeen Journal's final take on the whole business - 'By and by no doubt the public will come to understand the ways of the modest persons who 'do not care for fame', but yet somehow contrive to never miss a highly remunerative notoriety'. Ouch, worthy of The Silver Domino herself.

And yes, Marie Corelli was indeed the author of The Silver Domino, and Tennyson would never have dreamed of sending a standard letter....

Sunday 15 May 2016

When Oscar Met Julia

You may have read recently that the National Portrait Gallery have acquired an album of Oscar Gustave Rejlander’s work and it will be unveiled to the public in the autumn.  It will a great opportunity  to enjoy the work of a photographer whose photographs are not displayed that often.  Having said that, I saw some of Rejlander’s work not that long ago in the context of an exhibition…

Maids Drawing Water at Freshwater (or At the Well) (1863) O G Rejlander
This image of Mary Ryan and Mary Kellaway by the well in the back garden of Dimbola was an exciting find as part of the V&A’s 200th anniversary exhibition of Julia Margaret Cameron.  Rejlander and Cameron were early collaborators and his friendship with her helped shape her as a photographer in many ways but the reason I like Oscar Gustave Rejlander is that he raises more questions than he answer in the life of Julia Margaret Cameron.  That has to be a good thing.

The Two Ways of Life (1857) O G Rejlander
Starting with Rejlander’s life before Cameron – Not very much is known about his early life before he arrived on a ship name the Woodhouse from Clausen to Hull on 2nd August 1839.  He was the only ‘alien’ on the ship, and he gave his profession as bokhållare, or book-keeper. By the 1841 census, Rejlander is living in lodgings in Lincoln and is listed as an ‘artist’, and indeed he exhibited a painting entitled Oh Yes! Oh Yes! Oh Yes! (probably not wise to google that at work) in the Royal Academy’s exhibition in 1848. He had trained in Rome to be an artist but if his chosen profession of ‘book keeper’ is anything to go by, he might not have had a large amount of faith in his skills.  In Edgar Yoxall Jones’ book  Father of Art Photography: O G Rejlander 1813-1875 (1973), it becomes clear that although Rejlander continued to call himself an artist, photography was in his future, culminating in a friendship with an amateur photographer and then a trip in 1851 to the Great Exhibition where he saw the Daguerreotypes and changed his course.  The artist could immediately see how photography could improve draughtsmanship and assist in knowledge of anatomy.  A photograph would not move, would be patient to the whims of the artist and would be ever ready with the consistent pose, day or night. You can see by Rejlander’s photographs that some of them are very familiar versions of paintings and although it is not widely known exactly who his clients were, some paintings do seem to owe a lot to his photographic images, such as the one Jones uses as an example, Burne-Jones’ Flamma Vestalis

Flamma Vestalis Edward Burne-Jones

Truly Thanksful (c.1860s) O G Rejlander
So, how does Julia Margaret Cameron fit into this story? Well, for me, this is the interesting bit as fitting Rejlander into Cameron’s story is a slightly tricky issue as there are a few ways they could have met.  We know for certain that Rejlander travelled to Freshwater in 1863, where he took photographs of the Tennyson family, and this formal portrait of Alfred Tennyson, celebrity poet…

Alfred Tennyson (1863) O G Rejlander
Then we also have the Idylls of the Village, a series of staged domestic scenes taken around Dimbola using members of the household as the models (sound familiar?).  In addition to the two Marys at the well, there are images of the postman’s arrival, Julia at her piano and the various Cameron boys involved or watching the women work.  These photographs are most notable now because the Marys by the Well scene features the glasshouse that Cameron used as a studio in the background.  It also shows the now familiar faces of Mary Ryan and Mary Kellaway in their household tasks (It’s very useful for me as well as it shows Mary Hillier was not working at Dimbola when the images were taken, showing she did not start work there until after the Spring of 1863).

Mrs Cameron and her staff receiving letters from the postman (1863) O G Rejlander

The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (1863-5) O G Rejlander

The Three Graces (1863) O G Rejlander
 In Amanda Hopkinson’s biography of Julia Margaret Cameron there is a suggested explanation of why such emphasis was placed on the staged scenes of the postman’s arrival at Dimbola.  Whilst Rejlander favoured such domestic genre scenes as this, there is the added element that Cameron relied on the post to hear from her husband when he was away, and other friends and family, in her relative isolation of the Island.

Mrs Cameron and maids receive letters from the postman, Freshwater (1863) O G Rejlander
So, why was Rejlander on the Isle of Wight? It is sometimes suggested that he was just on holiday, or had been invited over to the Freshwater community as a fellow artist.  Certainly, he shared many interests in common with Cameron if his photographs are anything to go by, and whilst in Freshwater he took not just the formal portrait of the Laureate but also some rather more informal images of both families.

Mrs Cameron receives a salute from Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, Freshwater (1863) O G Rejlander
A possible explanation for this visit came in an interview with Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, Julia’s son, in an issue of Sun Artists.  The publication, under the editorship of P H Emerson (also a photographer), ran  an eight part special on Cameron’s work between 1889-91 (one issue of it can be viewed here).  In the interview, Henry Cameron claimed that before starting her own career, his mother paid commercial artists to photograph friends and family so she could assist and learn from the sittings, and he listed Tennyson as one of those who had been photographed.  It is therefore possible that Rejlander was in Freshwater in 1863 because Cameron had paid him to photograph Tennyson and because they had got on so well, he had stayed a little longer and created more photographs, more obviously the work of them both.  Starting with the Tennyson images, much has been made of the images of the family in the garden of Farringford, how different they are from the normal stiff formality of his contemporary portraits.
The Tennyson Family (1863)
The Tennyson Family (1863)
There are a number of images in this sequence some with the house behind them, some with the wood, some in full sun, some in shade.  The obvious explanation is that Rejlander turned them around and photographed them, in a short space of time rather than spending an entire day wandering the woodlands and gardens of Farringford (which is unlikely given how much patience the poet had with such nonsense).  However, we are left with some of the most natural and intimate images of the Tennyson family, hand in hand, arm in arm, enjoying each other’s company. If we take Cameron Jnr’s statement as truth, it can be supposed that Julia assisted in the capturing of these images.  Certainly the image of the family backgrounded by trees has a rather more soft-focused appearance, which would become her trademark in later images.  If Julia had been involved, it would be understandable why the Tennysons would be patient and willing to pose in a different way to the normal formal portrait, and look relaxed whilst doing it.  A good comparison to this is the famous Marshall image of Tennyson and the Marshall family by Lewis Carroll where he looks neither patient nor relaxed.

The Tennysons and the Marshalls (1857) Lewis Carroll
So, that seemed to clear up the mystery of how Julia met Oscar, but then I came across a hilariously ‘Julia’ story in Helmut Gernsheim’s biography of Julia Margaret Cameron.  Ever aware of their precarious finances, Cameron came across an article about how silver could be recovered from waste photographic solutions.  She gathered up a dozen pots filled with her old chemicals and took a cab to Rejlander's lodgings, demanding to be shown how to manage it. Gernsheim asserts that at this point they were 'complete strangers', and that Cameron had taken it upon herself to find him out to demand the secret.  Rejlander actually knew how to extract the silver but had to tell her that the amount she could recover would not even have paid for her cab fare.  It is unlikely they were strangers at this point as Rejlander was still living in the Midlands in the 1850s, only lodging occasionally in London and it seems unlikely that Cameron would have found out a stranger at his lodgings when she had other London-based photographers to ask, not least in her own family.  So, how else could Julia have met Oscar?

HHH Cameron, Arthur Prinsep (?), CH Cameron, Val Prinsep (1850s-60s)
A possible answer lies in unpicking the narrative Julia herself spins about her career in photography.  If you took Annals of My Glasshouse at face value, you would think that photography for Mrs Cameron began on her 48th birthday with the surprise gift of her camera from daughter Julia.  However, all that tells us is that is the first time she owned a camera, not used one.  Little Holland House, home of the Prinseps, Julia's sister's family, and G F Watts were often a focus for family and friends to gather and create art, hence series of photographs taken and previously attributed solely to another brother-in-law (and photographer) Lord Somers.  Gradually, researchers are bringing forward an alternative, that the photographs, like those in Freshwater in 1863, are the product of collaborations.  Watts' biographer and Little Holland House expert Barbara Bryant names Oscar Gustave Rejlander as one of the  photographers present at the gatherings in the 1850s. It could be that Cameron or Lord Somers met with Rejlander and invited him to participate, or that Watts used Rejlander's photographs in his paintings (as he did with Julia's in the 1860s and 70s) and Rejlander became part of the circle.

Julia Jackson (1860s) O G Rejlander
That explains how they could have met, but how did they remain friends?  Other photographers knew Julia but weren't privy to collaborations or continued friendships like Rejlander was (yes, Lewis Carroll, I'm looking at you). An obvious guess is that Oscar and Julia shared interests as expressed through their models.  Rejlander, once admitted to the Little Holland House circle, used people like Julia Jackson, not just once, but repeatedly.

Gerald and Julia Duckworth (Jackson) (1871) O G Rejlander
He also showed respect for Cameron's sacred cows, taking images of Tennyson and his family, and Henry Taylor.  It might also have been that Rejlander had begun as an artist that his vision of photography was rooted there rather than the technical ability to reproduce in crystal clear clarity. In fact in Cameron's defence, Rejlander wrote in the British Journal of Photography:
"much may be said in favour of the idea of having a representation of flesh without an exaggerated idea of the bark of the skin, such as we have seen in many large photographs by eminent photographers..." (BJP, 9 September 1864)
Hosanna (1865) Julia Margaret Cameron
 It might also have been from Rejlander that Cameron learned about montages (or 'cut and shuts', as I like to call them).  The second image above, The Two Ways of Life, is a set of different images all combined to create a scene, as are a number of Cameron's Holy Family images.  Not only that but it is easy to see that Cameron shared Rejlander's idea of what made a good photograph: the similarity between Rejlander's Truly Thankful (above) and many images of Mary Hillier are obvious, not least in the drapery and edged shawl worn, but also in the occasional piece of narrative art created by Cameron that reflected Rejlander's story-pictures...

Pray God Bring Father Safely Home (1872) J M Cameron
Caught! (1860) O G Rejlander
Piecing together Rejlander and Cameron will take time and possibly it is impossible to tell how much they collaborated until all the photographs of their circle are finally identified with the correct photographer, but even then some can be seen as group efforts.  heaven knows I've taken wet collodion photographs and the more hands available the better, so it is almost unfair to pin down the Little Holland House work so definitely.  A good place to start to see what I mean is Graham Ovenden's 1978 A Victorian Album (which can be bought quite cheaply second hand, for example here).  It is the album of photographs Cameron gave to her sister Mia in 1863, which was sold at a Sotheby's auction in 1974 for a world record price.  These are photographs taken by Cameron and her friends and family and show how hard it is to untangle the narrative of who took what and when.  Hopefully the NPG's purchase will light more interest in Rejlander and his relationship with Cameron as I feel he has a lot more to tell us.

Kate Dore with light sensitive paper frame (1863) O G Rejlander and J M Cameron

I have other Rejlander - Cameron related images that I just don't have room for here, but if you come on over to my Facebook page, I'll pop them up there for your amusement...