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Julia Margaret Cameron

June 11, 1815 - January 26, 1879


Julia Margaret Cameron rose to be one of the most famous British photographers of the Victorian era, despite her relatively short career and often-critiqued style. Born on June 11, 1815, in Calcutta, India, Julia Margaret Cameron would marry and give birth to six children before ever picking up a camera. It was not until the age of 48 that one of her children gifted her a camera, and her career blossomed. From that day, Julia Margaret Cameron became dedicated to her photography, converting a chicken coop into a studio. As of 1860, she and her family had lived on the Isle of Wight, known for being a hub of the British cultural elite. Julia Margaret Cameron used her connections to photograph several celebrities who resided upon the Isle, including Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens. Julia Margaret Cameron became known for her celebrity portraits, as well as her eccentricity and unrelenting pursuit of those she wanted to photograph. She maintained a close relationship with the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) throughout her career, and her first museum exhibition was held there in 1865. Julia Margaret Cameron’s work was highly experimental, incorporating scratches and smudges into her photographs or tilted plates, displaying traces of her process. Julia Margaret Cameron took her photographs slightly out of focus in order to create a hazy, atmospheric look; often referred to as her “soft focus” style. Beyond the celebrities she often photographed, Cameron tended to dress her sitters up as Biblical, allegorical, or Arthurian characters. Julia Margaret Cameron’s love of medievalism also led her to imitate the popular Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the time or engage with some of their stylistic tendencies in her photography. Julia Margaret Cameron would die in January 1879, continuing her photography right up until the end of her life. Her work would remain influential for years to come, especially her style of portraiture and her ability to reveal the character within an individual through closely cropped photography.

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