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Julia Margaret Cameron

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (photographed)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Born in Calcutta, Julia Margaret Cameron was the most flamboyant of seven sisters known for their sociability and artistic eccentricity. She moved to England in 1848 when her husband Charles Hay Cameron, a reformer of Indian law and education, retired. They eventually settled in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, where she later began making photographs.

This photograph was taken by her youngest son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, who became a professional photographer and established a portrait studio on Mortimer Street, London, during the mid 1880s.

Physical description

Photograph of a woman (Julia Margaret Cameron) wearing a black lace veil, looking off to her right, her left hand is resting below her chest holding an embroidered shawl, her right hand is visible resting on her right leg.

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)


ca. 1870 (photographed)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

'from life registered photograph copyright'
lower left, on mount, under print; inscribed; brown ink

'Henry Herschel Hay Cameron Freshwater'
lower right, on mount, under print; inscribed; brown ink

'Julia Margaret Cameron'
lower centre, on mount; signed; brown ink; Cameron, Julia Margaret

'This photograph belongs to my cherished Henry.'
lower right, on mount; inscribed; brown ink; Cameron, Julia Margaret

'X.311 Photographs by Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron, c.1864-75. / Portrait of Mrs. Cameron by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron./ 18-1939'
Museum labels; upper right, on mount; typewriting; black ink

lower right on mount; inscribed; black ink


Height: 22.9 cm, Width: 19.5 cm image, Height: 38.0 cm, Width: 30.8 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 Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, 'Julia Margaret Cameron', albumen print, c.1870

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

Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p.2.


Photographic paper


Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Portraits; Photographers


Photographs; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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