Inspiring women: Julia Margaret Cameron

In 1863, when Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 years old, her daughter gifted her a camera and thus began her career as a photographer. Studying under David Wilkie Wynfield, she created portraits with unprecedented intimacy. They were under-appreciated in their time, the softness and intentional lack of focus led to ridicule from her contemporaries.

But Cameron stuck to her guns, photographing obsessively. Her seriousness extended to protecting and preserving her images too and she registered them all at the copyright office. Her collection is important, not only because of its beauty, but, because many are the only known photographs of prominent figures. Among many others she photographed Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning.

I find the intimacy of Cameron's portraits at times little suffocating; her subject's eyes haunting and deeply expressive. It strikes me that although I see picture after picture of women in magazines and websites now, there's a hollowness to these photographs. And perhaps that's necessary - most of those photographs aren't about the people, they're about the products they're modeling. But still, isn't it something to gaze upon these portraits and feel a connection with the model and photographer? And aren't you left feeling like so much of what we're served these days comes up short on pure, raw expressiveness?

Julia Margaret Cameron's Women
Julia Margaret Cameron: A Critical Biography

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