albumen print by julia margaret cameron
The first part of Arresting Beauty is entitled, 'Beauty That Came Before Me' beginning with the first albumen print Julia ever took of sitter, Annie Philpot, a neighbor's daughter. It took several hours to complete and several sweets to get the child to remain still for many hours. Mrs. Cameron remarked, '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 I printed, toned, fixed and framed it, and presented it to her father the same day.'
These are the beginning years of photography for Julia Margaret Cameron where she experimented with portraiture by seeking out Old Master paintings from the Italian Renaissance as well as Parthenon Marbles. Julia found beauty all around her whether it be her neighbors down the road or a face captured in a painting before her time.
The seconed part of Arresting Beauty is entitled, 'Poets, Prophets, Painters and Lovely Maidens.' Julia begins photographing 'her friends and neighbors' around Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, where she lives in her home, Dimbola Lodge, a nod to her plantations in Ceylon. Julia begins with a grand poet of her day, Alfred Tennyson. She also photographs astronomer and friend, Sir John Herschel as well as her housemaid, Mary Hillier and model, Emily Peacock.