Julia Margaret Cameron, 1815 –1879, was a famous British photographer. It wasn’t until she was 48 years old, that Cameron received her first camera as a present from her daughter, and started her career as a photographer at a time when photography was new and challenging. The bulk of Cameron’s photographs fit into two categories, closely framed portraits or else illustrative allegories based on religious and literary works. In the allegorical works, she posed her subjects in period costumes with fantasy props. The lighting is soft and feathery, with subjects portraying characters like angels and poets.
In the course of her lifetime Cameron would come to know of the push for women’s emancipation, the end of slavery in America, and the emergence of a new medium — photography. Through her photography, Cameron expanded on the Victorian ideal and transcended her family legacy of women noted solely for their beauty. The aristocratic salons fostered her intellectual and artistic interest, and her social position afforded her the opportunity to pursue the arts and sciences while managing an active household.
Her neighbor Alfred Lord Tennyson often brought friends to see the photographer. Some of her famous subjects include: Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Everett Millais, William Michael Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ellen Terry and George Frederic Watts. Her unconventional portrait style, which included close cropping, soft focus and emphasis on capturing the personality, is still imitated today. Many of Cameron’s portraits are significant because they are often the only existing photographs of historical figures.
Shrewdly, Julia Cameron copyrighted each of her photographs, so that much of her work survives today. She wrote, “I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied.”
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