My Heritage

I owe a huge amount of personal and creative inspirations to my pioneering ancestor Julia Margaret Cameron. I am lucky enough to have a heritage rich in artistic archives of books and photographs, stories and iconic women such as Virginia Woolf. These women were trailblazers, fearlessly pushing boundaries in the creative arts and thought leaders amongst the man and women of he 18th century. Their legacies live on and are culturally celebrated to this day.

My great great great grandmother Julia Margaret Cameron was a pioneer British photographer, amongst the first to be known as an artist in the photographic sense and certainly the first female photographer from the Victorian era whose photographs are still held in such high regard today. Her life story, eccentric character and celebrated circle of friends continue to be a great source of fascination to me. I have spent hours consuming books and articles and various archives of images she tool which are most predominantly held at the Victoria and Albert museum where she also had her own studio from which to work.

Born in Calcutta India in 1815, Julia Margaret became most notably famous for her portraits of celebrities of the time including Charles Darwin, Alfred Lloyd Tennyson, her niece Virginia Woolf, Alice Liddell, G F Watts and John Herschel. Some of her more iconic images took on Arthurian and other legendary or heroic themes. Many of her images captured pre Raphaelite beauties adorned in jewelry and headpieces that she had collected from her time living in India. In many of my photo-shoots I have referenced these images in style and artistic feeling even naming my collection ‘A Pre Raphaelite Utopia’ in honor of her memory and inspirations to me. Cameron resided in The Isle of white for most of her photographic career where she created a magical world frequented by artists, poets and revolutionaries of the day where no one was commonplace. This idyllic bohemian existence has given rise to a desire and passion in me to one day create such a delightfully colorful and creative utopian existence. A magical world where all are welcome and liberated

Cameron’s photographic career started late in life, at age 48 when she was given a camera as a gift from her daughter to keep her occupied in times of solitude. She took this on not as a part time hobby as might have been thought but with such focus and vigor that she produced thousands of images within her ten-year career tirelessly creating and engaging everyone from celebrities, to maids to orphans she found on the street to sit for her in whichever way she decided.

Although her style was not widely appreciated in her own day, her work has had an impact on modern photographers, especially her closely cropped portraits.
Julia was from a family of celebrated beauties and was considered an ugly duckling among her seven sisters. As her great-niece Virginia Woolf wrote in the 1926 introduction to the Hogarth Press collection of Cameron’s photographs, “In the trio [of sisters] where…[one] was Beauty; and [one] Dash; Mrs. Cameron was undoubtedly Talent”. The trio of sisters were known for their personal style and tastes, which were deemed to be unusual. Having moved to England they continued to dress in the style to which they had been accustomed when growing up in India, swathed in colorful saris and adorned in vibrant gemstones. They were also known for their eccentric characters and were even labeled as the collective Pattledom as from the outset they appeared to live in their own world where the conventionalities of the day were outside of their concerns.

Having this powerful and pioneering strong woman in my heritage has helped me find connection within myself as the more I read about her the greater I see my own quirks as bearing a remarkable resemblance which gives me confidence in my own abilities. Whenever personal doubts arise I think of her and how she really set the bar in encouraging anyone with a vision to more forward fearlessly despite perceived inherent lacks or negative opinions of others. To have had such confidence and self-belief at this time to begin a career when women were resigned to be confined to the house and not much else demonstrates the ability of her ferocious and unbinding nature. She gave little energy of thought to the presupposed obstacles and barriers placed on women of the Victorian era demonstrating her ferocious and undeniable passion for creative freedom and her expressive passion for capturing beauty. To me she is a role model and the epitome of a goddess.

I have included a gallery here of some of my favourite photographs. I would love to know which of her images inspire you and why. 


Jules xx