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Julia Margaret Cameron
British, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, January 1864
Albumen print
7 1/16 x 5 5/8 in.

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On the paper on which this print is mounted, Julia Margaret Cameron inscribed the words: "My very first success in Photography." Cameron had received her first camera as a gift just one month before writing these words. Like most photographers of the time, she struggled with the mechanical operation of the camera and the chemistry involved to create an image.

In the 1860s, photographers were required to work rapidly because all of the chemicals had to be used while they were still fresh. They had to compose the subject for the photograph, hoping the sitter could maintain his or her pose long enough for them to make the exposure. The complexity and urgency of the process led to many technical mistakes, and Cameron's early attempts were no exception. Even though the sitter's face is slightly out of focus, and streaks from the application of the chemistry are evident, it was with great pride and satisfaction that Cameron declared this portrait of tousle-haired Annie Philpot to be the first completed print that she considered successful.

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