By Grace Hetfield
In the 1860’s and 1870’s, Julia Margaret Cameron pioneered photography as an art form with soft stylistic portraits that were a serious departure from the stiff looking portraits favored at the time. She photographed many of the era’s prominent figures from the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson to an adult Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. She often used photography not as means of capturing realism but as a new form of illustration, with models posing in costumes evoke scenes from history or out of Shakespeare. In this sense, her creative method was sort of a primitive precursor to the highly conceptual photo editorials of modern times. With Cameron’s penchant for soft focus, her photos almost look like oil paintings in gray scale.
Critics at the time did not recognize Cameron’s talent or ingenuity. In 1864, The Photographic Journal said that in her pictures “all that is good about photography has been neglected”. As an women in her 50’s practicing photography in the 19th century, she perhaps seen as a hobbyist rather than an artist. Cameron finally received recognition and acclaim long after her death. Her work was displayed at the Metropolitan Art Museum in 2013.