Date of Award

Summer 1997

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Garner, Ana C.

Second Advisor

Sterk, Helen

Third Advisor

Turner, Lynn


I am a photographer and have always been interested in the power of this medium. Like all people who strive for excellence in a chosen field, I searched for role models to follow in terms of composition and impact. When you look at a powerful photograph it touches you in ways that no other form of communication can. Several years after I took up the camera as a more serious endeavor than just recording family events, a friend encouraged me to buy the biography of Dorothea Lange. I was aware of her famous 'Migrant Mother' image but didn't know much else. I read the biography and put it aside until the fall of 1994 when an exhibit of her photographs came to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I was \ impressed by the work she had done and began an exploration of women photographers. Here was a good connection for me; I was interested in women photographers and photography as visual communication. My next step was to fmd a niche in this area of research I could fill. Dorothea Lange was one photographer who has had much research done on her life and work. But what about those who came before, those who set the standard and opened up the field for women? This interest led me to the Victorian Era and researching what the beginning was like and who the major photographers were. also wanted to look at women who had not been examined as closely as someone like Dorothea Lange. After reading and reviewing photography history books one name kept popping up, Julia Margaret Cameron. Here was someone who worked near the beginning and created a rather large body of work that could be studied. It was obvious very early on that I was gravitating to semiotics, and Cameron's complex images were fertile ground for my study of visual communication. But just studying Cameron was not enough for me. She was a middle Victorian Era English photographer and only created her art for ten years. I felt to get a true sense of the breathe of Victorian Era history and photography, I had to look at an American photographer. America was a center for photography in the late Victorian Era. The possible choices were many. I based my decision on the complexity and variety of the photographs created, the length of time a photographer worked, and her influence on the field of photography. Gertrude Kasebier was my choice for these reasons. She was truly a great artist and took photography into the new century. ii My look at photography as visual communication is only a beginning, only one framework to view the historical contributions of these women. I hope that by exploring their Victorian Era work, I can shed light on this era and on Cameron and Kasebier's extraordinary legacy. The semiotic analysis is more than just a look at their work; it is an analysis of the influence the Victorian Era had on the work and the lives of Julia Margaret Cameron and Gertrude Kasebier. As a photographer and visual communicator, my eyes now look back all the way to the beginning of photography and new role models.



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