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Julia Margaret Cameron

Born: Calcutta, 11 June 1815
Died: Dikoya, Valley, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), 26 January 1879
Nationality: English

father was an official in the East India Company


1838 – marries lawyer Charles Hay Cameron

1847 – publishes translation of Gottfried August Bürger’s Leonora

1848 – settles in London; attends literary/artistic salon of her sister, Sara Prinsep, at Little Holland House

1865 - exhibits at International Exhibition in Dublin, receives honorable mention; one-person exhibitions at French Gallery and Colnaghi Gallery (both London)

1867 - exhibits at Exposition universelle, receives honorable mention

1869 - exhibits at Photography Exhibition in Groningen (The Netherlands), receives bronze medal

1873 - exhibits at Vienna World's Fair
Member of photographic societies in London and Scotland. Sold her work through Colnaghi & Company, a London print-seller

1875 – family moves to Ceylon to oversee coffee plantation

Important Artworks: 

Mrs Herbert Duckworth, 1867 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

The Kiss of Peace, 1868 (University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City)



Roger Taylor reflects on the singularity of Cameron’s photographic style:

“Cameron’s comfortable lifestyle might have been expected to produced comfortable photographs. But with her commanding personality and close relationships with the most fascinating of her Victorian contemporaries, something unpredictably wondrous happened. Eschewing conventions of technique and approach, Cameron combined her poetic character with her love of amateur theater to produce portraits of undeniable power. Tightly framed, bluntly honest, and inspired by allusions that magnified her already noble sitters, Cameron’s portraits were unlike any of those of her contemporaries.”

Roger Taylor, Impressed by Light. British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (New Haven-London: Yale University Press, 2007), 49.

In a 31 December 1864 letter to John Herschel, Cameron described her artistic goal:

My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real & Ideal & sacrificing nothing of Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry & beauty.
Cameron, Julia Margaret. Letter to John Herschel, 31 December 1864. Reprinted in Ford, Colin. The Cameron Collection: An Album of Photographs By Julia Margaret Cameron Presented to Sir John Herschel (Wokingham: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1975), 141.

Web Resources

Metmuseum: Julia Cameron