Famous Photographers - Julia Margaret Cameron
Famous Photographers >> Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 - 1879) was a British photographer known for her portraits of celebrities of the time, and for Arthurian and similar legendary themed pictures. Cameron's photographic career was short (about 12 years) and came late in her life. Her work had a huge impact on the development of modern photography, especially her closely cropped portraits which are still mimicked today. Her house, Dimbola Lodge, on the Isle of Wight can still be visited.
In 1863, when Cameron was 48 years old, her daughter gave her camera as a present, thereby starting her career as a phtographer. Within a year, Cameron became a member of the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland. In her photography, Cameron strove to capture beauty. She wrote, "I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied."
During her career, Cameron registered each of her photographs with the copyright office and kept detailed records. Her shrewd business sense is one reason that so many of her works survive today. Another reason that many of Cameron's portraits are significant is because they are often the only existing photograph of historical figures. (Many paintings and drawings exist, but, at the time, photography was still a new, technically-complex medium.)
The bulk of Cameron's photographs fit into two categories: celebrity portraits and illustrations for literary works.
Cameron's sister ran the artistic scene at Little Holland House, which gave her many famous subjects for her portraits. Some of her famous subjects include: Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ellen Terry and George Frederic Watts. Most of these distinctive portraits are cropped closely around the subject's face and are in soft focus. Cameron was often friends with these Victorian celebrities, and tried to capture their personalities in her photos.
Cameron's posed photographic illustrations represent the other half of her work. In these illustrations, she frequently photographed historical scenes or literary works, which often took the quality of oil paintings. Cameron's friendship with Tennyson led to his asking her to photograph illustrations for his Idylls of the King. These photographs are designed to look like oil paintings from the same time period, including rich details like historical costumes and intricate draperies. Today, these posed works are sometimes dismissed by art critics. Nevertheless, Cameron saw these photographs as art, just like the oil paintings they imitated.
In 1875 the Camerons moved back to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Julia continued to practice photography but complained in letters about the difficulties of getting chemicals and pure water to develop and print photographs. Also, in India, she did not have access to Little Holland House's artistic community. She also did not have a market to distribute her photographs as she had in England. Because of this, Cameron took fewer pictures in India. These pictures were of posed Indian natives, paralleling the posed pictures that Cameron had taken of neighbours in England. Almost none of Cameron's work from India survives. Cameron died in Ceylon in 1879.
On the Web
The Julia Margaret Cameron Trust includes archive of Cameron images.