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Photograph - Alfred Tennyson
  • Alfred Tennyson
    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879
  • Enlarge image

Alfred Tennyson

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    August 1865 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Given by or Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Julia Margaret Cameron’s first photographic subjects were family and friends. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style.

In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there, centred around the artist George Frederic Watts. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers, collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

This was one of Cameron’s earliest celebrity portraits. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was Poet Laureate and one of the most famous writers in England. He was also Cameron’s close friend and neighbour on the Isle of Wight. Tennyson moved slightly during the exposure, resulting in a doubling that gives the portrait a sense of vitality.

Physical description

Profile of a man (Alfred Tennyson) with black dress and hat.

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)


August 1865 (photographed)


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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

From Life Aug 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron
Recto mount in brown ink by JMC at lower centre

Tennyson, Baron. / (1809-1892)
Recto mount in black ink by unknown hand at lower left corner.

Recto mount in black ink by unknown hand at lower centre

Recto mount in black ink by unknown hand at upper left

X.311 45133 Photographs by Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1864-75.Alfred Tennyson. 1865.
Museum label pasted to mount

Museum blind stamp at upper centre on mount

Colnaghi blind stamp at lower centre on mount


Height: 24.7 cm image, Width: 19.5 cm image, Height: 38 cm mount, Width: 28.5 cm mount

Object history note

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79) was one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century. Her photographs were rule-breaking: purposely out of focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of the artist’s process. Best known for her powerful portraits, she also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories.

Born in Calcutta on 11 June 1815, the fourth of seven sisters, her father was an East India Company official and her mother descended from French aristocracy. Educated mainly in France, Cameron returned to India in 1834.

In 1842, the British astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871) introduced Cameron to photography, sending her examples of the new invention. They had met in 1836 while Cameron was convalescing from an illness in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He remained a life-long friend and correspondent on technical photographic matters. That same year she met Charles Hay Cameron (1795–1880), 20 years her senior, a reformer of Indian law and education. They married in Calcutta in 1838 and she became a prominent hostess in colonial society. A decade later, the Camerons moved to England. By then they had four children; two more were born in England. Several of Cameron’s sisters were already living there, and had established literary, artistic and social connections. The Camerons eventually settled in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.

At the age of 48 Cameron received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest.

The Camerons lived at Freshwater until 1875, when they moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where Charles Cameron had purchased coffee and rubber plantations, managed under difficult agricultural and financial conditions by three of their sons. Cameron continued her photographic practice at her new home yet her output decreased significantly and only a small body of photographs from this time remains. After moving to Ceylon the Camerons made only one more visit to England in May 1878. Julia Margaret Cameron died after a brief illness in Ceylon in 1879.

Cameron’s relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum dates to the earliest years of her photographic career. The first museum exhibition of Cameron's work was held in 1865 at the South Kensington Museum, London (now the V&A). The South Kensington Museum was not only the sole museum to exhibit Cameron’s work in her lifetime, but also the institution that collected her photographs most extensively in her day. In 1868 the Museum gave Cameron the use of two rooms as a portrait studio, perhaps qualifying her as its first artist-in-residence. Today the V&A’s Cameron collection includes photographs acquired directly from the artist, others collected later from various sources, and five letters from Cameron to Sir Henry Cole (1808–82), the Museum’s founding director and an early supporter of photography.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Alfred Tennyson', albumen print, 1865

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

Julian Cox and Colin Ford, et al. Julia Margaret Cameron: the complete photographs. London : Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 795, p. 354
Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p.153.


Photographic paper


Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Portraits; Poets


Photographs; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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