Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Dimbola Museum seeks nominees for beard portraits

‘Whisper of the Muse’ Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865
Image caption The winning entries will have their portraits made

The search for people with beards for a Victorian photographic portrait exhibition has begun.

Dimbola Museum and Galleries in Freshwater, Isle if Wight, is running a competition for up to eight men to have their facial hair captured on glass.

Models will have their portrait taken using a 150-year-old Victorian method.

The Isle of Wight museum is the former home of Victorian photographer Julia Cameron.

She produced thousands of compelling pictures from her home studio in a converted hen house using the complex photographic method.

Collodion is poured on to a glass plate before immersion in a silver nitrate bath.

The plate is then put in the camera and exposed for about five seconds, producing a negative on the glass.

'Middle of nowhere'

She photographed many eminent Victorians including Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, artist GF Watts and the Pre-Raphaelites William Holman Hunt and William M Rosetti.

Museum curator Karen Grainger said: "It was an astonishing and ambitious thing to be doing in the middle of nowhere on the Isle of Wight.

"At that time, everybody used to sport beards, it was a freer symbol than the clean shaven look - they were really letting their hair down literally at the time."

The museum will use a specially adapted Victorian camera, as none of Julia Cameron's cameras are thought to exist, and a lens from 1866.

"Beards photograph very well in the process, with the texture and the way it catches the light.

"There are a lot of eccentrics here on the island. I'd spotted a few people with interesting beards and thought it would be great if we could capture that and show a present theme today," she added.

The last day for nominations for the competition is 31 March. An exhibition of the eight bearded portraits will be on show at the museum during May.

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