In Photos: Remembering Celebrity Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron

June 11, 2013 /Photography News/ Born 198 years ago, on 11 June 1815, Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer best known for her portraits of celebrities of the time, and for her photographs with Arthurian and other legendary themes.
Study of Beatrice Cenci. Model is May Prinsep. 1866. Albumen print, 335 x 267mm (13 1/4 x 10 1/2"). Scanned from Colin Ford's Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius. Originally from National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford.

Cameron's photographic career was short, spanning eleven years of her life (1864–1875). In 1863, when she was 48 years old, her daughter gave her a camera as a present, thereby starting her career as a photographer. Within a year, Cameron became a member of the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland. In her photography, Cameron strove to capture beauty. She wrote, "I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied."

"Annie my first success", Julia Margaret Cameron's first photo that she was pleased with. Subject is Annie Wilhelmina Philpot (1854-1930). 29 January 1864. Albumen print, 188 x 145 mm (7 3/8 x 5 3/4"). National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford.
Wist ye not that your father and I sought thee sorrowing? Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879). ca. 1865. Albumen print, 25.2 x 28.8 cm. George Eastman House Collection.
Entitled "Sadness", this photo shows the actress Ellen Terry at the age of 16. 1864. Carbon print, 242 x 240mm (9 1/2 x 9 1/2"). Royal Photographic Society. Scanned from Colin Ford's Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius.
Although her style was not widely appreciated in her own day, her work has had an impact on modern photographers, especially her closely cropped portraits.

Cameron's sister ran the artistic scene at Little Holland House, which gave her many famous subjects for her portraits. Some of her famous subjects include: Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Everett Millais, William Michael Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ellen Terry and George Frederic Watts. Among Cameron's lesser-known images are those she took of Mary Emily ('May') Prinsep, wife of Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, the elder son of Alfred Tennyson and a British colonial administrator. 

Ophelia Study No. 2. 1867. Julia Margaret Cameron. Albumen print, 33.0 x 27.1 cm. George Eastman House Collection.
Cameron's posed photographic illustrations represent the other half of her work. In these illustrations, she frequently photographed historical scenes or literary works, which often took the quality of oil paintings.

During her career, Cameron registered each of her photographs with the copyright office and kept detailed records. Her shrewd business sense is one reason that so many of her works survive today. Another reason that many of Cameron's portraits are significant is because they are often the only existing photograph of historical figures. 

Charles Hay Cameron, husband of Julia Margaret Cameron. 1864. Albumen print, 291 x 223mm (11 1/2 x 8 3/4"). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Scanned from Colin Ford's Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius.
Portrait of Henry Thoby Prinsep, member of the Prinsep family, descendants of John Prinsep, merchant in India and later Member of Parliament. Albumen print with arched top. 1866.
Cameron's niece Julia Prinsep Stephen wrote the biography of Cameron, which appeared in the first edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, 1886. Julia Stephen was the mother of Virginia Woolf, who edited, with Roger Fry, a collection of Cameron's photographs.

Julia Margaret Cameron died in Kalutara, Ceylon, on January 26, 1879.

Cameron portrait of Julia Prinsep Jackson, later Julia Stephen, Cameron's niece, favourite subject, and mother of the author Virginia Woolf. 1867.

Alice Liddell as a young woman. 1872. Source: Lewis Carroll with a text by Graham Ovenden (Masters of Photography series). McDonald & Queen Anne, London, 1984.

Beatrice Cenci. Model is Kate Keown. May 1868. Albumen print, 327 x 246mm (12 7/8 x 9 5/8"). Scanned from Colin Ford's Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius. Originally from The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Charles Darwin Albumen print, 11.25 x 9.5 inches, 1868.

Marianne North (1830-1890) at her home in Ceylon. Pre1879.


Add To Google BookmarksStumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To RedditTwit ThisAdd To FacebookAdd To Yahoo


  1. Anonymous says

    Thank You it is so important to see where we have come from and sometimes need to get back to.
    These are all remarkable images and just wonder at the amount of time and effort these had taken.

    johanna says

    starting out as a professional photographer is never too late. this article is a touching testimony to that.

    Anonymous says


3 comments so far. What do you think?