Posted by: Andrea Hammer
Photographer Betsy Cameron, who started her career as a fashion model with the Ford Model Agency in New York City, understands the power of a camera to capture pure emotion and powerful natural resources. With firsthand knowledge of lighting, she has photographed renowned images of children gazing at the ocean together including Two Children. Many of these images are often described as “nostalgic” and “vintage,” which Cameron prefers to “new.”
“Give me something with soul that craves to live on, and I’m in. In the case of the childhood photography, I see it more as visually timeless. Come to think of it, my subjects are all timeless. Childhood, flowers, nature, water … timeless,” she says.
In 1980, Cameron accepted an assignment from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. During this time, she photographed in five of the Cambodian refugee camps. As the result of her work, more than 2,000 of these children were ultimately reunited with their families.
“Every artistic expression in my life begins on an organic level. I am one of those women who knew from an early age that I was going to have children, and that was that. I had a wonderful career that took me into my 30s and wanted nothing more than to be a mother and share in the experience of my children’s carefree, perfect childhood. This naiveté extended into the creative process when paired with a camera,” she says.
“Luckily, my former background surrounded me with photographers and stylists who gave me the knowledge to document my kids’ childhood moments in the manner I envisioned,” she says. “I was thrilled to capture the innocence, honesty and humor on film. Black-and-white and sepia kept the images ‘out of time.’ While hand painting the prints with a soft palette continued the nostalgic and tranquil feel.”
Cameron recalls the time when women didn’t necessarily have careers or a track record of moving on to another. Despite those limitations, she was first inspired by French model-turned-photographer Sarah Moons’ tinted, ethereal imagery, which remains uniquely her own.
“Around the same time, I found my first collector’s piece by Margaret Julia Cameron–a small child with angel wings. Born in 1815, Margaret began photographing in her late 40s, dressing up friends and children for soft romantic works of art,” she says.
With a signature contemplative style, Cameron has created a timely collection of new work in a Water Series. These shimmering water photos originated with her studies of Japanese researcher Masuro Emoto, who observed that human consciousness, positive thoughts, words, prayers and music have an impact on the molecular structure of water. Cameron, who grew up near the water, already recognized the ocean’s power and pursued further research about this natural resource.
“Water is not inherently good or bad; it’s beyond that scope. Like all of nature it is a living and powerful force and when out of balance may produce extremes. Imagine the current chaos of society’s effect on the molecular structure of water, combined with climate change,” Cameron says. “Water may very well also be finding itself out of control. However, I like to focus on the way that disasters can unify on a social level, bringing people together; through relief efforts and the pouring out of care and compassion. Do we not need more than ever to be unified in a bonding spirit?”
While taking photos of the water, Cameron revealed details through layers of line, color, shape and texture within forms.
“The first time I opened the images up on my computer, I was mesmerized. This ordinary and familiar resource proved to be a flowing, life-affirming energy, brilliant in its magnificent complexities,” she says. “It’s all about light, look at the light, when capturing a subject to be frozen in time.”
In addition, Cameron also stresses the importance of keeping your shadow out of the picture. Getting wet and taking photos “up close and personal gives you detail and depth,” she adds. Another secret is waiting for a light cloud cover, where the light just sneaks through, to create a powerful image.
“Water is a worldwide topic because clean, pure water sustains us in life. From the far reaches of Antarctica and on, large-scale pollution is all too real and continuing every day. Polluted rainwater is already of major global concern with the World Trade Organization predicting the possibility of ‘Water Wars’ in the 21st century. As an amazing resource, water gives us joy and beauty but, most importantly, it gives life that starts us off as 99% water as an embryo. We are, ALL of us, water,” she says.
“How is it that we are not giving it the required respect, love and gratitude it deserves and needs for its survival, which is ultimately our own survival? As we are all busy just surviving, so is Mother Nature. The Water Series Collection is my contribution to heighten the awareness and further the healing.”
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