Women in History Series
JULIA MARGARET CAMERON (1815–1879)
Born in Calcutta and educated in Versailles, Cameron was recognized in London society for her eccentric personality. She didn’t pick up a camera until age 48, and then spent the next dozen years shooting more than 1,200 photographic images. Her last word on her deathbed in Ceylon was said to be “beauty.” Here are three of our favorites:
In 1874 Alfred Tennyson asked Cameron to make photographic illustrations for a new edition of his Idylls of the King. Costuming family and friends, she made some 245 exposures to arrive at the handful she wanted for the book. She was unhappy with the way her photographs translated into wood engravings, and she issued her own edition that included a dozen full size photographic prints in each of two volumes.
For this 1867 portrait of Julia Jackson, Cameron strived for classical ideals of purity, strength, and grace. Jackson was Cameron’s subject for other photographs as well. Jackson’s daughter, Virginia Woolf later modeled the sensitive, quiet, and beautiful Mrs. Ramsey in her novel, To the Lighthouse, on her mother. You can certainly see those qualities in this photograph.
Women were often photo subjects for Cameron. She captures so beautifully what appear to be private moments of reflection.
All photographs courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.