The world of Cameron

Guest writer Mark Fox continues with his series looking at different places of interest on the Island.

The Island has many interesting places to visit and is associated with many leading figures from the worlds of art, science, politics, innovation and design. One of the less well known but most interesting is Julia Margaret Cameron, the pioneering photographer.

Cameron lived at a time, 1815 – 1879, when women struggled to make their mark on a male dominated world. It was a time when women were not allowed to vote, or participate in the public affairs of the country. She was given a camera when she was 48 years old and in a relatively short 11 year photographic career pioneered new techniques that have had a lasting impact on photography.

cameron-pic-2Virginia Woolf, her great niece, wrote about the impact Cameron made in helping photography move from a dry and dusty scientific discipline to one that embraced a more artistic perspective. She did this by developing a process that enabled photographs with a softer focus to be taken. Cameron pioneered a developmental process and an approach to taking photographs that focused on a more artistic approach to photography.

Cameron pioneered close-up portrait shots of well known figures of her day. She was a friend of Lord Tennyson and it was while visiting him that she fell in love with the Island and bought a home here. She named it Dimbola, after the plantations she owned in Sri Lanka.

Inspired by the artistic and literary circles in which she moved she changed the nature of photography, from one of using the medium for the recording of scientific developments to a much more personal and creative purpose. Cameron infused photography with an emphasis on the creative and the human. In many ways she set the scene for other pioneering photographers, such as the Bekens with marine photography.

Cameron was born and died abroad. She came to the Island by chance and stayed through choice. She chose one of the most beautiful and remote parts of the Island to live and work. It is a corner of the Island that has welcomed and nurtured so many creative and interesting people. At that time it was home to what came to be known as the ‘Freshwater Circle’. Not only Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate live nearby but so did William Holman Hunt, the actress Ellen Terry and Lewis Carroll.

Her home, Dimbola, is a beautiful place, and well worth a visit. It is close to Freshwater Bay and to all the other attractions that part of the Island has to offer. It was Cameron’s home for 15 years, and where she did the majority of her photography. It is part museum, part archive and part memorial to a remarkable person.