Julia Margaret cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) was a British photographer who was considered
to be one greatest portrait photographers of the 19th century. However,
she did face criticism at the time because of the way she treated photography
as a science as well as an art form by choreographing processes such as the wet
collodion process, a choice that caused critics to describe her work as being
bad photography.

In this essay, I have chosen to analyse Julia Margaret Cameron’s
work as she was briefly mentioned in previous lectures and is a photographer who
I have prior knowledge on. Cameron is also a photographer who inspires me not
only because of her work but because of her strong female presence in a time
when women were not expected to have their own voice. I will discuss this in
greater detail throughout this essay while also evaluating a number of
Cameron’s photographs.

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Julia Margaret Cameron experimented with photography in
1860 when she converted a coal shed into a dark room and the hen house into a
studio. However, it was only in 1863 when she was gifted a sliding wooden box camera
for her 48th birthday, from her daughter and son in law that her
career and passion for photography began.

Within the year of 1864, Cameron joined the photography
societies of Scotland and London. It was then within a month of receiving the
camera that Cameron’s photograph of her neighbours, daughter Annie became her
first success. In this same year Cameron also began to register her photographs
to the British Copyright Office. Overall, she copyrighted
508 photographs between 1864-75. She was the first photographer to take advantage of England’s Copyright Bill
of 1862 and this is why her photographs have lasted till today in good
condition.

To create her photographs Cameron used the most common
method at that time which was Albumen photography. This was a process that was
a lot more difficult, time consuming and hazardous then taking photographs in
the 21st century. It entailed using a bulky wooden camera which
would sit on a tripod. This development required a glass plate, usually 12 x 10 inch to be coated with photosensitive chemicals in a darkroom and exposed in the camera when still damp. Afterwards, the glass negative would then return to the darkroom to be developed, rinsed and varnished. Prints were carefully made by placing the negative on to sensitised photographic paper and exposing it to sunlight. This was a very delicate process that easily created inaccuracy as the glass plate had to be clean and evenly coated throughout.

Cameron
obsessed over this process and her new-found love for photography often getting
the subjects of her photographs to sit for long periods of time for exposures
in bright light while she coated and processed each wet plate. This often
resulted 

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