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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    May 1865 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 311, box P

Julia Margaret Cameron looked to painting and sculpture as inspiration for her allegorical and narrative subjects. Some works are photographic interpretations of specific paintings by artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Others aspired more generally to create ‘Pictorial Effect’.

Cameron's harshest critics attacked her for using the supposedly truthful medium of photography to depict imaginary subject matter. Some suggested that at best her photographs could serve as studies for painters. The South Kensington Museum (which was to become the Victoria and Albert Museum), however, purchased only 'Madonnas' and 'Fancy Subjects', and exhibited them as pictures in their own right.

Cameron was both mocked and admired for her attempts at photographing allegorical subjects. What to some critics seemed forced and artificial, others viewed as artistic. At least one critic saw it both ways, writing: ‘The staple of her subjects are a lady in night habiliments with a couple of children in a state of nudity, and these she manages to arrange very artistically, very gracefully indeed.’

Physical description

A photograph of a bare-chested child (Alice Keown) and her sister (Elizabeth Keown) leaning into a standing women (Mary Hillier), with rope-belted cloak and draped head against a backdrop of leaves.

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)


May 1865 (photographed)


Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

"Spring" in ink in lower centre verso of mount. Blindstamp: "SCIENCE & ART DEPARTMENT. NATIONAL LIBRARY" in top centre verso of mount


Height: 250 mm, Width: 215 mm, Height: 390 mm mount, Width: 295 mm mount, Height: 580 mm mount, Width: 380 mm mount

Object history note

Julia Margaret Cameron's career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron's photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Spring' (sitters Alice Keown, Mary Hillier and Elizabeth Keown), albumen print, 1865

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ford, Colin and Cox, Julian. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 1085, p.446, ill.
Weaver, Mike. Whisper of the Muse: The Overstone album and other photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron. Malibu, California: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986, p. 80.
Wolf, Sylvia (et al). Julia Margaret Cameron's Women. London: The Institute of Chicago and London: Yale University Press, 1998. Repro., plate 50.
Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p. 151.


Photographic paper


Albumen process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Children; Woman; Ivy leaves; Servant; Child; Spring


Photographs; Allegory


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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