Lessons from Photography Masters: Julia Margaret Cameron


It’s time once again for us to learn something from the photography masters of years past, this time from British portraitist Julia Margaret Cameron. Although her career as a photographer was relatively short-lived, she left us with some of the most notable photographs of her time.

Julia Margaret Cameron, photographed by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron in 1870. Photo via Wikipedia.

Born in 1815 to a British official father and a French aristocrat mother in Calcutta, India, Julia Margaret Cameron (nee Pattle) came from a family of renowned beauties. However, she was considered as the ugly duckling of the family. Even so, her great-niece Virginia Woolf wrote that while her sisters were “Beauty” and “Dash,” Julia Margaret was “undoubtedly Talent.” She obtained her education in France, returned to India afterwards, then married jurist Charles Hay Cameron in 1838.

Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 years old when her interest in photography began, after receiving a camera from her daughter as a present. A year later, she became a member of the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland. With the guidance of David Wilkie Wynfield, Cameron developed a style through which she became known for: fancy soft-focus and cropped portraits. Acknowledging Wynfield as her primary influence, she once said, “to my feeling about his beautiful photography I owed all my attempts and indeed consequently all my success.”

The world has recently commemorated International Women’s Day, and Cameron is certainly among the most influential women in history. She is a notable figure in the world of photography not only for being one of the very first women to take photographs, but also for being one of the first to photograph the celebrities and prominent personalities of her time.

As our featured lady portraitist lived during the Victorian age, there are not many recorded words of wisdom from her. Even so, the ones that she left us are never short of being inspirational.

“Annie, my first success”, taken in 1864, was the first photograph Cameron had taken that she was satisfied with. Photo via Wikipedia.

From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour.

Cameron’s 1864 portrait of her husband, Charles Hay Cameron. Photo via Wikipedia.

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

Charles Darwin, photographed by Cameron in 1868. Photo via Wikipedia.

Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, photographed by Cameron in 1869. Photo via Wikipedia.

The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.

Cameron’s niece and favorite subject, Julia Prinsep Jackson (later Stephen), who was also the mother of esteemed English novelist Virginia Woolf. Photos via Wikipedia and Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.

When I have had such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.

Cameron’s other portraits: Stage actress Ellen Terry and a Pre-Raphaelite themed photo, which she was also known for. Photos via Wikipedia and Alice in Wonderland on Blogspot.

When we are angry or depressed in our creativity, we have misplaced our power. We have allowed someone else to determine our worth, and then we are angry at being undervalued.

Looking for more words of inspiration and wisdom from our photography masters? Why don’t you check out all Lessons from Photography Masters articles so far!

All information for this article were taken from Julia Margaret Cameron on Wikipedia and Brainy Quote.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2012-03-12 #lifestyle #soft-focus #lomography #portraits #lessons #quotes #analogue-lifestyle #lessons-from-photography-masters #julia-margaret-cameron


  1. djramsay
    djramsay ·

    I love the Darwin portrait - fantastic article

  2. plasticpopsicle
    plasticpopsicle ·

    @djramsay Thank you, glad you liked it!

  3. coca
    coca ·

    love her pictures, nice article!

  4. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    Her daughter might be the first woman photographer if she use the camera for herself, instead of giving it to her mother as a birthday present =D

  5. leftofnever
    leftofnever ·

    I have seen many of these photos up close and personal at Julia's home on the Isle of Wight.

    I will be making a return visit to her home when I pop over to the Isle in May as I don't live that far from the Isle of Wight.

    Her home, Dimbola, is open to the public and has some of her images on display as well as some fantastic photography exhibitions. It's well worth making the trip to see.

    More info: www.dimbola.co.uk/

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