Photographic portraits by Julia Margaret Cameron


Ever since Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) pioneered the standard positive/negative process in the 1840s, there has been debate over how much photography is artistic, and how much mere mechanics. The series of prints with accompanying text, Sun Artists, was sold in eight parts from October 1889 to July 1891. In showcasing some of the best pictorial photographers of the era, it was very much a fine-art publication.

This, the fifth part, featured works from the late 1860s by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879). She only took up photography aged 48, and though little appreciated in her time, her soft-focus and close-cropped portraits are now recognised as fine examples of the genre. 

The first image, The Kiss of Peace, is described by fellow photographer Peter Henry Emerson (1856–1936) as ‘One of the noblest works ever produced by photography ... A picture instinct with delicate observation, sweetness and refinement’. The final one, The Day Dream, is ‘full of the profoundest expression, together with the simplicity, dignity, and impersonal greatness of style that belongs to the masterpieces of the world’. 

There are also two portraits: of Sir John Herschel (1792–1871), astronomer and another photography pioneer, who coined the words ‘positive’ and ‘negative’; and of the poet Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), author of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, and neighbour of Cameron on the Isle of Wight.

Full title:
Sun Artists: Mrs. Cameron. [Photographs by Mrs. J. M. Cameron.] With a descriptive essay. By P. H. Emerson.
October 1890, London
Photograph / Image
Julia Margaret Cameron [photographer], W Arthur Boord [editor], P H Emerson
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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