Friday, July 24, 2015

Julia Margaret Cameron, Julia Jackson

Julia Margaret Cameron, Julia Jackson, 1867

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a British photographer.  Although not very widely appreciated during her life, she has been extremely influential to modern photography and is now considered one of the great early photographers.  Born in Calcutta, her father was an official for the East India Company and her mother was a French aristocrat whose father was a page of Marie Antoinette.  Cameron (née Prattle) was educated in France, then returned to Calcutta where she married Charles Hay Cameron, a jurist stationed there.  He was twenty years older than she, and when he retired in 1848 the family moved to London.  Cameron's career as a photographer didn't begin until 1863 when she was 48 and her daughter gave her a camera as a present.  Within a year she was a member of the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland. Her goal was always to capture beauty; she considered her first successful photograph to be her 1864 portrait of ten-year-old Annie Wilhelmina Philpot.  Her work in her short career places her as one of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography.  Cameron photographed such figures as Alfred Lord Tennyson (multiple times in fact), scientist Sir John Herschel, leading Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry, and Alice Liddell (the model for Alice in Wonderland).  Cameron also photographed heroic and literary scenes, particularly Arthurian scenes illustrating Tennyson's Idylls of the King.  Her favorite subject, however, was her niece, Julia Jackson, who later became Julia Stephen and mother of Virginia Woolf.  The portrait I have chosen to feature is incredibly intense.  It is an example of Cameron's close up portrait style which was so innovative.  Jackson meets the gaze of the camera and the viewer and communicates great depth of thought and feeling.  The picture is beautiful and haunting, successfully communicating some aspect of its subject's inner self.

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