Julia Margaret Cameron - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1868
Photographic portrait of Longfellow taken by Julia Margaret Cameron on the Isle of Wight, 17 July 1868.
Julia Margaret Cameron (11 June 1815 – 26 January 1879) began her photography career later in life, at the age of 48, and is known for her portraits of prominent figures of the time. Cameron's photographs have a soft-focus and romantic style, and she often used unconventional poses and compositions. She was also one of the first photographers to use close-up compositions and to photograph women as serious subjects. Cameron was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and intellectuals and was influenced by the work of the Italian Renaissance.
The gift of the camera came to her in December 1863, at a moment when her husband was away, her sons were at boarding school, and her daughter had married and moved away. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour... it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.” wrote Cameron - forty-eight, a mother of six, deeply religious, well-read, eccentric friend of many of Victorian England’s greatest minds. “I began with no knowledge of the art... I did not know where to place my dark box, how to focus my sitter, and my first picture I effaced to my consternation by rubbing my hand over the filmy side of the glass.” Cameron had no interest in establishing a commercial studio. Instead, she enlisted friends, family, and servants, costuming them. Within eighteen months she had sold eighty prints to the Victoria and Albert Museum, established a studio in two of its rooms, and made arrangements with the West End printseller to publish and sell her photographs. In a dozen years of work, effectively ended by the Camerons’ departure for Ceylon's family plantations in 1875, she produced about 900 mesmerizing works, that remain among the most highly admired of Victorian photographs.