First Celebrity Photographer – Julia Margaret Cameron

Day 35 of Colourisation Project – June  11

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Today’s subject for colourisation is a personal favourite of mine. Recognised as a pioneer of early photography, Julia Margaret Cameron came to photography late in life at the age of 48, after her daughter gifted her a camera. This was back in 1863. Julia Margaret Cameron went on to become one of the 19th century’s most significant photographers.

Julia Margaret Cameron

Photographer: Henry Herschel Hay Cameron – 1870 Julia Margaret Cameron – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born on this day in 1815 in Calcutta, India, she was a woman with a disregard for convention and well ahead of her Victorian times. She took to photography with a zeal for creating fine art and embarked on a decade-long career in photography. Ignoring photographic conventions, Julia Margaret Cameron is credited with creating the first photographic close-up portraits.  Her practice of using diffused focus generated a lot of interest as well as criticism amongst her peers.

In 1860 the Camerons moved to a property in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight, where the majority of her photographic work was created.They called it Dimbola Lodge after the family’s Ceylon estate. Today Dimbola Lodge is open to the public.

Her portraits of ‘famous men and fair women’ perhaps also generated the birth of celebrity. Her portraits were unconventional in their intimacy and her long exposures resulted in soft focus shots. Her work fits neatly into two categories—closely framed portraits and allegorical images based on religious and literary works clearly influenced by Pre-Raphaelite school of art. Julia Margaret Cameron acknowledges David Wilkie Wynfield as the greatest influence on her work. He had developed a technique of shallow-focus portrait photography which he passed on to her.

Her subjects were limited to family and friends. As she mixed in artistic and literary circles her subjects included the likes of Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning,  William Michael Rossetti, Ellen Terry and Frederic Watts thus providing the world with excellent historical primary resources. Her favourite subject was her niece, Julia Prinsep Jackson, the mother of Virginia Wolf.

Julia Margaret Cameron had a shrewd sense of business and so kept detailed records of her photos and registered each of them with the copyright office.  Consequently, today there are more than 1,200 surviving images.

She died in Ceylon on January 26, 1879.


“I turned my coal-house into my dark room, and a glazed fowl house I had given to my children became my glass house! The hens were liberated, I hope and believe not eaten… all hands and hearts sympathised in my new labour, since the society of hens and chickens was soon changed for that of poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens, who all in turn have immortalized the humble little farm erection. ”  Julia Margaret Cameron 1874

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6 Responses to First Celebrity Photographer – Julia Margaret Cameron

  1. Pingback: First Lady of Colour Photography – Sarah Angelina Acland | Random Phoughts

  2. bobcotton says:

    Loredana – congratulations on your colouring of the Henry Herschel Hay Cameron portrait of Julia! I’d like to use it in my blog
    please – obviously with credits and links!


    • Loredana Isabella Crupi says:

      Thankyou Bob, glad you like it. Please feel free to use with credits. thanks Lori 🙂 I look forward to reading your blog!


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