We visit the Isle of Wight as a family every year and stay near Fresh Water bay and Tennyson Down. Julia Margaret Cameron had a house here ( Dimbola) and was friends with Tennyson.
The house has been converted into a Museum and tea shop. There is a permanent collection of Julia’s photography, a reproduction of her bedroom, some old cameras and a exhibition about the history of the IOW music festival. Every year I look forward to the new temporary exhibition. This year it is Annie Leibovitz – Pilgrimage.
“Unlike her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines and advertising clients, the photographs in this exhibition were taken simply because Leibovitz was moved by the subject. The exhibition speaks in a commonplace language to the photographer’s curiosity about the world she inherited, spanning landscapes both dramatic and quiet, interiors of living rooms and bedrooms, and objects that are talismans of past lives. Pilgrimage is an evocative and deeply personal statement by a photographer whose career now spans more than forty years, encompassing a broad range of subject matter, history and stylistic influences”
Photos include Marion Andersoms concert gown , Niagara Falls, Virginia Wolfs studio ,and a section of a dress worn by Emily Dickinson.
The images are displayed as snap shots of rooms or objects , reflections, composition and light are embraced as if Leibovitz were walking into rooms / exhibitions and collecting experiences.
I particularly liked Marion Andersons concert gown , which is photographed in a panoramic format made up of a selection of photos pieced together like one of David Hockney’s collages.
The dress is one that was worn by the African American opera singer when she sang at the Lincoln memorial in 1939. The story goes that she was refused permission to sing at Constition Hall which had a ‘artists only’ policy.millions listened to her sing in what was a significant event in the early civil rights movement. I don’t know if she was wearing this dress at the time .
In Leibovitz’s photos the dress looks as if it is lying on a wooden floor, it is made of heavy weight silk in cream and red, the folds of the fabric reflect the light and there is a lush, rich feel to the image. This is belied or given more emotive weight by the stained lining of the train- which you wouldn’t see if it was worn – it hints at the life lived by the dress, when the artist wore it in a wet situation or walked through a puddle.
The collage is life sized, I found the image powerful and had to revisit the exhibition to see it again. I only read up about the story after I revisited the image.
The New Yorker article talks about the stripe of red on the gown holding connotations of blood which relate to Lincolns Gloves and the battle of Gettysburg . You can read the whole article by clicking on the link below.
I want to read the ‘Pilgrimage’ book that accompanies the exhibition