Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

Of 19th-century British photographers, Julia Margaret Cameron stands apart as one of the most original; legendary for her portraits of Victorian celebrities and Arthurian-themed photographs. Although she discovered photography late in life and only worked for twelve years in a darkroom, her work greatly influenced modern photography, especially her habit of closely cropping portraits that is still practiced today.

When her daughter gave Cameron a camera as a 48th birthday present, Cameron quickly became dedicated and enthusiastic about the creative process. On the Isle of Wight, where she lived, she converted a coalhouse into a darkroom and a chicken coop into a studio.

Cameron cited the pre-Raphaelite painters as a leading inspiration on her photography. Her photographs are allegorical and sentimental, often representing religious or legendary themes and always striving to capture candid beauty. The models were often neighbors and family members or even random passer-bys were coerced into having their essence captured in a Cameron photograph, even if it meant sitting still for hours on end.

In her brief career, Cameron produced powerful portraits in several mediums. She was more interested in capturing the soul of her subject than mastering camera technique. She was one of the first photographers to use soft-focus lenses and a close-up perspective on a large scale, such as in I Wait. Due to her handling of light and shadow, Cameron is often called Rembrandt with a Camera.

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