Allegorical Representation


Oscar Gustave Rejlander was a Swedish painter who experimented with photography around 1850 in England. His most famous photograph, "The Two Ways of Life,” was colossal by period standards (30 by 16") and was made from no less than thirty different negatives. In this montage Rejlander employs a narrative tool from painting: the use of figures as allegorical representation for ideas. It depicts two youth surveying separate paths to manhood. One is full of virtue, the other of sin. It is a metaphor for human life and was controversial not only for the theme, but also because the nude photograph used were labeled indecent.


"The Two Ways of Life,
Oscar Gustave Rejlander,1857


One of the most well known apprentices and collaborators of Rejlander was Julia Margaret Cameron, she was born to a wealthy British family in India and after having completed her education in France she married the lawyer Charles Hay Cameron. They lived in South Africa and Ceylon, and when the family finally moved to London, she threw herself into photography with great energy.

Cameron worked with large glass plate negatives, generally used to shoot landscapes. She required her sitters to sit still for long periods of time and this is why her images are often soft and out of focus; she chose to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Her photographs are remarkable for the extreme intimacy and emotional strength achieved by the use of extreme close-up, and dramatic lighting. In addition to making portraits, Cameron also staged scenes and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.


Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron
My Niece Julia 1867

Back to Intersections of Photography and Painting (Historical Referrences)


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