Friday, July 31, 2009

Photography by Lady Hawarden: Girls Embowered

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
~from Tennyson's Lady of Shalott




I am completely mesmerized by the Victorian photography of Lady Hawarden: her images are eerie, intimate, and at-times bold and provocative. The women and young girls in her photos often look you straight in the "eye," as if challenging your right to behold them...or they languish in sensual ennui, waiting for something or someone who will never arrive...



Lady Hawarden was the wife of an aristocrat, and she lived a rather secluded life in Kensington, England with her large family. She is most famous for her sensuous, loving portraits of her daughters, which she began taking around 1857.



Her use of natural lighting, elaborate costumes, and mirrors evoke a kind of feminine fantasy-land, a re-enactment of myth, history, and romantic yearning. But, they also provide us with a picture of the quietude of female love, intimacy, and the listlessness of the privileged woman's domestic life.



Lady Hawarden used wet-collodian plates of various formats to create striking portraits of her girls. Her ‘studies’, as she called them, were exhibited in 1863 and 1864 at the Photographic Society of London, where they won praise and, in 1864, a silver medal. She became a full member of the society in 1863.



As one critic put it, it was difficult not to think of Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott" as one saw these pictures. In his poem, the Lady was imprisoned in a tower, and she could only see life indirectly, using a mirror. Unable to experience the real world, she had to recourse to weaving tapestries of the inverted image. The story of Lady Clementina Hawarden is very similar, for she was a prisoner of Victorian conventions, and sought to express herself using photography [from A History of Photography].







6 comments:

Poesis said...

I love her works too! <3 And Julia Margaret Cameron...

Braindance said...

I love these images, ace photogaraphy.
Lush find lady. x

The nun impression is my fav, I often feel that melodramatic...

Ashe Mischief said...

Thank you! I hadn't thought about Lady Haywarden's work for so long, so it was great to have this beautiful refresher. I remember being so drawn to her and Julia Margaret Cameron when I was studying the History of Photography in undergrad...

Poke Salad Annie said...

i've never seen these before. so strikingly beautiful. wonderful post :)

Sam said...

Oh these are wonderful! Thank you so much for the intro - I love them!

[Tara] said...

poesis -- Yes, Cameron is fantastic as well! I will have to blog on her next...

braindance -- "Lush!" I adore that word; I should use it more.

ashe-- They are both just magnificent!

annie -- Glad you enjoyed!

Sam -- Of course!!