Best of the Best: Julia Margaret Cameron


"I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me, and at length the longing has been satisfied." – Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron (11 June 1815 – 26 January 1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographer during the 1800s, was recognized for her romanticized, sepia-toned, Victorian portraits. Unlike other famous classic photographers, Cameron started photographing in her late 40s when she received a camera as a gift from her daughter. Taking pictures became her hobby and later on, it transformed into her greatest passion and obsession until the last years of her life.

Another thing which differentiated Julia Margaret Cameron from other photographers was that her pictures had technical flaws. Others were taken purposely out of focus, some were soft and very picturesque, and some were just plainly unpleasant. She did not take photos to earn a living which was why her craft was considered to be experimental and unconventional. In spite of this, she marked a solid place in the history of photography. She had a profound capacity to visualize and her images illuminated her chosen subjects’ personalities.

She made use of large photographic plates, dark backgrounds, and subdued lighting and she required her models to sit for a long time. Her photographs may lack sharpness but their dreamy, emotional, and sometimes almost spiritual, mood compromised the efforts and sacrifices made in order to yield such fancy portraits. The women in Cameron’s photographs imbued tragic heroines whose sadness made them beauteous and pure. Her works were synonymous to tableaux vivants, or living pictures, and they were highly acclaimed for their eccentricity and theatrical artificiality.

Julia Margaret Cameron only had a short spanned photographic career. Her work centered around females but she also took portraits of eminent males such as the poets Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, the painter George Frederic Watts, and the scientist Charles Darwin, to name a few. She received honors abroad and her work was later popularized in books which, in turn, inspired other photographers, like Imogen Cunningham, to indulge in portrait photography like Cameron did.

Annie, 1864 (Inscribed on the paper: My very first success in Photography)
Ellen Terry, 1864
Magdalene, 1865
Paul and Virginia, 1865
Prospero, 1865
Whisper of the Muse, 1865 (also known as the portrait of George Frederic Watts)
Beatrice, 1866
A Bacchante, 1867
Julia Jackson, 1867
The Rosebud Garden of Girls, 1868
The Kiss of Peace, 1869
A Holy Family, 1872
I Wait, 1872
Venus Chiding Cupid and Removing His Wings, 1872
Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere

All photographs in this article are from The J. Paul Getty Museum. Read more about the Best of the Best Series.

Which of these Julia Margaret Cameron photographs strike your liking the most? What other classic portrait photographers would you like to be written about? Read more about the Best of the Best Series.

basterda is a member of the Lomography team in Manila. She has been dealing with your Customer Service concerns since August of 2010 and is now also contributing to the magazine. Influential Photographs is also one of her ongoing series for the Lifestyle section.

written by basterda on 2011-03-22 in #lifestyle #victorian #photographers #sepia #portraits #best-of-the-best-series #soft-focus #classic #portraitures


  1. michell
    michell ·


  2. caroleor
    caroleor ·

    All of these photographs have a haunting quality, but the one that strkies me most is Whisper of the Muse, though there's also something about Prospero that draws me in. And Ellen Terry is so modern looking, considering it was photographed in 1864. Thanks for sharing these!

  3. lu_bettyb00p
    lu_bettyb00p ·

    I wrote in my blog article about it!…

  4. janette
    janette ·

    Julia Margaret Cameron lived at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater on the Isle of Wight

  5. jesskat84
    jesskat84 ·

    Totally agree with you Caroleor, the Ellen Terry shot oozes with the ambience of another time.. Ellen Terry was an actress... to me that explains why this photo is appears that way. Ellen Terry was 16 when this photo was taken and she also got married when she was 16!
    My favourite photo is Beatrice I think, I also really like Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere.

  6. rosebud89
    rosebud89 ·

    She's definitely one of my favourite photographers ever. She was very fortunate to have so many famous and talented individuals as models. Alice Liddell also posed for her, aka Alice in Wonderland! :)

  7. diggity
    diggity ·

    I agree- Best of the Best!

More Interesting Articles

  • London Exhibit to Feature Julia Margaret Cameron's Photographs

    written by chooolss on 2014-11-24 in #news
    London Exhibit to Feature Julia Margaret Cameron's Photographs

    The Victoria and Albert Museum in London will be hosting an exhibition of works by one of the early photography pioneers to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth.

  • Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-04-06 in #gear #reviews
    Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    There are quite a few perks that come with working for a film photography company, and the best perk of all is testing out the latest cameras. I can remember buying my LC-A back in 2009 and being really inspired to shoot film again. When the LC-A 120 came along, I couldn't wait to try it out around London. Join me as I test out this super medium format beauty.

  • My Year in Analogue: Old Cameras and New Techniques

    written by stratski on 2014-12-17 in #lifestyle
    My Year in Analogue: Old Cameras and New Techniques

    2014 has been a good year for me, photographically speaking. I finally realized a few projects I had been dying to try out for a long time and, despite my resolution not to buy new ones, acquired some new cameras.

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Portraits, Lights, Instant Photos, and Weird Faces

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-03-06 in #gear #lifestyle
    Portraits, Lights, Instant Photos, and Weird Faces

    In New York City, winter has been harsh and long, the nights long and cold, and shooting outside is not fun anymore. So when the Lomo'Instant Boston Edition hit the shelves this week and the new Splitzer arrived at the Lomography Gallery Store New York, we decided to do a round of light painting portraits instead of sunny ones.

  • J Ö R Ð + V A T N: Days 4 and 5

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-19 in #world #locations
    J Ö R Ð + V A T N: Days 4 and 5

    Lomographer Andrea Russo - andrejrusskovskij - continues to chronicle his week-long stay at the beautiful Iceland through words and breathtaking photographs. Today, he shares with us the events that took place during the fourth and fifth days of their trip.

  • Panoramic Collage Views of Late Night Manhattan Courtesy of the Petzval Lens

    written by antoniocastello on 2014-12-04 in #lifestyle
    Panoramic Collage Views of Late Night Manhattan Courtesy of the Petzval Lens

    If you have been reading my previous articles, you'd know that I'm addicted to the Petzval lens. The unique bokeh of the lens drives me crazy, but unfortunately the lens' focal length hasn't allowed me to do panoramic photos, until recently.

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Loving the Lomo'instant!

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-16 in #news
    Loving the Lomo'instant!

    It's only been a few months since the lovely Lomo'instant camera was officially launched online and in the Lomography stores. Since then this Instant compact camera has been flying off the shelves. You've all been busy experimenting and uploading your amazing shots so we've decided show you some of the best shots out there to inspire you to get creative!

  • The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    written by Lomography on 2014-09-06 in #news
    The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    Last week, I received the strangest thing through my letterbox. It was a postcard with this photograph on 1 side. The photo is of me sitting by the sea whilst I was on vacation last year. But I have literally no idea who took this shot – That’s why I came here, to ask for your help on my search for my mysterious photographer and to try and get to bottom of the riddle they wrote me. Please help me if you can!

  • Keep it Soft and Dreamy with the Petzval Lens

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-03-19 in #people #news
    Keep it Soft and Dreamy with the Petzval Lens

    We've been lending out the Petzval lens to some of our most loved photographers over the last 12 months. Some of the best shots have been soft, dreamy and full to the brim of beautiful bokeh! Have a look at some of our favourites here.

  • Shop News

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    Diana Mini and Flash Petite Noire at 25% off

    At 25% off you can take dreamy 35mm images with this little black beauty. Beam coloured light into your shots with its accompanying Diana Flash Back accessory and be the analogue king of the night.

  • Aurélien Bénard Shoots with the Petzval Lens

    written by lomographyfrance on 2014-10-06 in #people #lomoamigos
    Aurélien Bénard Shoots with the Petzval Lens

    Aurélien Bénard is a self-taught photographer who has been practicing photography for more than a decade. He specializes in glamour, fashion, beauty, and portrait photography. He recently tested the Petzval Lens and has prepared a series of of beautiful pictures and a video to captivate us all.

  • Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-15 in #reviews
    Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    Exactly seven years ago, I bought this camera from Indonesia's local Lomography community. I remember having some savings in my bank account and just spending it all on this camera. At that time, I browsed the microsite for the Lomography Fisheye No.2 and immediately fell in love with it! Coincidentally, my friend who introduced me to Lomography just bought this same camera for his birthday. My life has changed ever since I had the Fisheye, my first lomographic camera.

  • Provence Weddings: Julia Vanessa Utsch Takes the New Petzval 85 Lens to France

    written by zonderbar on 2015-06-01 in #people #lomoamigos
    Provence Weddings: Julia Vanessa Utsch Takes the New Petzval 85 Lens to France

    Weddings are special occasions, something that calls for a special place and a very special lens. German photographer Julia Vanessa Utsch had the opportunity to exchange her usual workplace for a beautiful weekend trip to the South of France to capture a wedding with the New Petval Lens 85 Lens.