Metropolitan Museum of Art: Where Julia Cameron unmasks the pettiness of this forum

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Mel Snyder
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Metropolitan Museum of Art: Where Julia Cameron unmasks the pettiness of this forum
7 months ago

Never heard of Julia Cameron? Neither had I until yesterday, as I was about to leave the Met, I saw a wall size blowup of a portrait she'd made.

In 1867.

I had to enter the exhibit. Google her, and look at her portraits made during our Civil War era. Completely untrained, just handed a primitive camera as a gift.

Imagine the CA and vignetting of the primitive lens of that ancient camera. Imagine shooting glass plate negatives with an effective ISO of probably 8.

Unencumbered with the BS of whether she had IBIS or AF or AE or a touchscreen LCD, she produced portraits of stunning impact. She literally focused on her subjects, lighting them and even costuming them to create incredible images. She got close. REAL close. To people she knew, and a lot she didn't know.

It suddenly struck me. The vast majority of chatter on this forum has absolutely nothing to do with what Julia was clearly obsessed: Creation of the best possible images. Not with technology - with technique. You can't buy technique.

And she didn't focus that lens on just anything or anybody. She would decide she wanted a portrait of someone great she didn't know, say, Tennyson, and would pursue him until he agreed to sit for her. No backyard petunias because she didn't have the guts to approach people in an era when cameras were as unknown as a death ray gun might be today.

I saw another exhibit which represented the ultimate in gutsy photography: during the 1950s, a Massachusetts photographer went through a small town knocking on doors, introducing himself, and asking if he could spend a day photographing the family that lived there. Incredibly powerful.

Fast forward to 2011. My son, a student at Ohio U, had an assignment in his photojournalism class. Produce a story of significance. He learned that a former professor had contracted Alzheimer's disease, and visited them, asking permission to begin a semester-long project on the family coping with this disease. He had just received as a gift a new D7000. He produced "Minding Geordie" - which can bring you to tears. Is my son an artist? No, he is now a web software engineer at a Rhode Island digital agency.

Now...think about the utter foolishness that dominates the discussion here. What does any of it REALLY have to do with going from where untrained Julia Cameron was in 1865 to being capable of the kind of images SHE would produce if handed the most lowly member of the NEX camera family?

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