Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera in December 1863 as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law (Eugenia). With it, came the words “it may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater”(Eugenia). In the next 10 years what was only meant to be an amusement proved to be much more than just that. She wrote, “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigor (Daniel)”. Her compelling portraits were unmatched in her time and remain amongst the most greatly revered of Victorian photographs. According to Civilwar.org, Mathew B. Brady was one of the first photographers in American history, widely acknowledged for his scenes of the Civil War. Brady learned under inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who established the daguerreotype method in America (Thomas). He then opened his own studio in New York in 1844, and photographed Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Abraham Lincoln, among other icons(Thomas). When the Civil War began, Brady and his team of associates used a mobile studio and darkroom in order to create intense battlefield photographs that reflected the realism of war to the people. Although Brady eventually went bankrupt due to the fact that the public just wasn’t interested in remembering the Civil War, both he and Cameron were able to stay relevant throughout their careers by making slight adjustments as technology advanced.
Throughout her lifetime, Julia Margaret Cameron was both criticized for her unusual techniques, and widely renowned for the magnificence of her compositions and her belief that photography was an art form (Daniel). This is a belief that has been upheld ever since throughout the photography community. She stated that her aspirations were, “to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and the Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to poetry and beauty”(Daniel). Although she depicted the acquirement of a camera as the start of her photographic career, Cameron had accumulated albums and even printed photographs prior to that. In one instance she printed one of O.G. Rejlander’s negatives, surrounding it with ferns to shape a photogram frame around the portrait (Victoria and Albert). This was a mixture of work that combines an image made in a camera with a camera-less method. This shows Cameron’s experimental style and offers insight to her work in her earlier days before she had attained a camera. When Cameron did take up photography as a full time interest, she devoted herself to the medium with energy and ambition (Daniel). About a month after receiving the camera, she created the photograph she deemed her ‘first success’ (Herbert). It was a portrait of Annie Philpot, who happened to be the daughter of a family staying in the Isle of Wight. Following the event, Cameron wrote of her elation; ‘I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture’ (Victoria and Albert). After that she moved on hastily to photographing family and friends, experimenting with soft focus, dramatic lighting and close-up compositions (Victoria and Albert). These qualities would become her signature style. During the summer of 1865 Cameron started using a larger camera, which held a 15 ¬x 12 inch glass negative (Victoria and Albert). With her new camera, Cameron brought her vision to life in the form of large-scale, close-up headshots (Victoria and Albert). She viewed the photos as a denunciation of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favor of a less defined but more emotionally potent kind of portraiture (Victoria and Albert). She wrote to Henry Cole that she anticipated this new series to ‘electrify you with delight and startle the world’ (Victoria and Albert).
Mathew Brady might be best acknowledged today for his Civil War–era photographs, however he established his reputation as a world-renowned portrait photographer over a decade before the war (Thomas). He opened his original daguerreotype portrait studio in New York City in the 1844, and eventually he would find himself amid the greatest camera artists in the United States, and received top honors for his daguerreotypes at the Crystal Palace exhibition in London. He would also open a successful office in Washington D.C. When a new photographic standard, the ambrotype, started to outshine the daguerreotype in the mid-1850s, Brady adjusted, in turn producing some of the most stunning ambrotype portraits ever formed (Douglass). As the decade came to an end, Brady’s studio lingered in the forefront of photographic revolution, “creating handsome, salted-paper print portraits from glass negatives”(Douglass). From then on, his legacy would continue to inspire artists alike forever.
Whitmire, Vi. “Julia Margaret Cameron.” Ipfh.org, iphf.org/inductees/julia-margaret-cameron/.
Herbert, Eugenia. “Julia Margaret Cameron in Ceylon: Idylls of Freshwater vs. Idylls of Rathoongodde.” The Public Domain Review, publicdomainreview.org/2014/07/09/julia-margaret-cameron-in-ceylon-idylls-of-freshwater-vs-idylls-of-rathoongodde/.
Perry, Douglas. “The Civil War as Photographed by Mathew Brady.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, www.archives.gov/education/lessons/brady-photos.
“Mathew Brady.” Civil War Trust, Civil War Trust, www.civilwar.org/learn/biographies/mathew-brady.
Thomas, Mike. “Mathew Brady, the War Correspondent .” Npca.org, National Parks Conservation Association, www.npca.org/articles/1233-mathew-brady-the-war-correspondent.
Victoria and Albert Museum. “Julia Margaret Cameron:Working Methods.” Vam.ac.uk, www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/j/julia-margaret-cameron-working-methods/.
Daniel, Malcolm. “Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/camr/hd_camr.htm.