Having briefly visited the British Museum yesterday, I can’t exactly say what I expected to get out of the Victoria and Albert Museum today.
I may have woke up this morning with hopes for a busy corridor with tourist (like myself) cramming around one case, pushing and squirming to the front, right up against the glass just to realize there’s a glare when they try and take a picture. I may have woke up this morning with aspiration to see everything in the museum, even if that was entirely impossible. I may have even woke up with disappointment at the fact that today was a “museum day.”
I can honestly say that I don’t remember what I expected out of the V & A museum today when I woke up because whatever I was expecting didn’t happen. All I can remember is wishing I could have absorbed a little more of the museum.
As soon as we walked in through the tunnel entrance (which, aside from the incredibly long walk, was awesome), I headed straight for the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit on the third floor.
I don’t know the entire process of developing a picture, (my mom just uses the Walmart photo center) so I didn’t expect to be able to fully grasp who Cameron was or her significance in British photography.
I read and heard before I went to the museum today that Cameron was a break-through in photography for the United Kingdom, but coming from America, where you can go to galleries from photographers all the time, from armatures to professionals, I didn’t really see the significance.
However, as I walked through the exhibit, I was transported back in time to 150 years ago when Cameron’s work first went on exhibit. The curators cleverly and successfully collected Cameron’s photographs and diaries to tell the story of her career.
Back in 1865, when Cameron’s work was first shown in the old V & A (The South Kensington Museum) photography wasn’t that big of a deal. And when it was, it was a big deal for its realistic characteristics. But Cameron challenged those trends. The significance of the curators at that time to exhibit her photos might not have seemed smart then, but because they did, anyone can now see what Cameron challenged herself with: altering the photo to make photography even more of an art.
In many of her more “professional” pictures, it is clear to see her immense talent, however she was not satisfied with that. In one picture, she scratches in something for the background, in another she purposefully makes the picture or part of the picture out of focus to draw attention to different aspects of the picture.
The saddest thing is that she was not appreciated at her time by the masses like a lot of American artists are for challenging the standards.
I didn’t just spend all my time at the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit (although I probably could have), I also visited sculptures, a great hall with HUGE paintings (including the Retable of St. George, which I may have puzzled over for well over 20 minutes), and an entire display titled “Shoes.”
I would never have thought to make an entire exhibit about Indian Fabric and put it next to a Sculpture exhibit, or put a Jewelry exhibit right next to the National Art Library.
Overall, the V & A museum is unique with its arrangement and extraordinary with its exhibits. I was immediately drawn to the “Shoes” exhibit by my curiosity (and maybe even a little bit because I’m a girl). And that is truly what sets the V & A museum apart from others.
If you’re ever in London, be sure to stop by and say “hi” to Victoria and Albert.