1815 Kalkutta, Indien
1879 Sri Lanka
Julia Margaret Cameron, née Pattle, was born in Calcutta, India, on June 11, 1815. She grew up in aristocratic circumstances, spent her school years in England and France as was customary for her station, and, after completing her education, returned to India. When she was 23 years old, she married the lawyer Charles Hay Cameron, 20 years her senior, with whom she lived until 1848 in Ceylon (today Sri Lanka).
In 1848 she moved with her family first to Kent, London, and then to the Isle of Wight. Frequently the Camerons’ hosts were members of literary and artistic circles. Not until she was 48 did Julia Margaret Cameron begin to teach herself to take pictures using a plate camera. The chicken coop served as a studio, and the coal cellar was turned into a darkroom. Cameron made portraits of her family and friends, among them the great minds of her time such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Lord Tennysson, Charles Darwin and Sir John Herschel.
The portraits are influenced by the art of the Preraphaelites and can be categorized under the heading of early pictorial photography. "My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and the Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty", explained Cameron. In order to lend her photographs a picturesque, dreamy quality, she employed blurring as a conscious stylistic tool and bathed the setting in diffuse light.
In 1864 she joined the Photographic Society in London and Scotland, and soon she presented her work in exhibits both at home and abroad. After 1866 she concentrated on the representation of allegorical, religious and literary scenes, in which her close friends and family members – often in costume – acted as models. The climax was Cameron’s illustrations for Tennyson’s "Idylls of the King and other Poems", which illustrated the legend of King Arthur; however, after publication, they received inconsistent reviews.
In 1875, the Camerons returned to Sri Lanka, where Julia Margaret died on January 26, 1879.