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