Julia Margaret Cameron certainly regarded her photography as an artform, writing to her friend, Sir John Herschel: "My aspirations are to ennoble photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art…"1 To this end, Cameron manipulated her photographs and technique to draw out the pictorialist tendancies in her work. Cox and Ford write: "If parts of an image were unsatisfactory to her, she engraved lines onto the negative, scratched and painted the collodion, and doctored the image as necessary to suit her expressive needs."2
This was an unusual approach to photography, but not altogether unknown – in 1853, the amateur photographer Sir William Newton postulated that an off-focus country scene could be more artistic than a sharper image.3 Similarly, Cameron chose to create a slight blur in many of her photographs, by not tightening her lens to the same extent as many photographers of the day, and eschewing devices such as head restraints for her sitters.4 This effect can again be observed in the diffusion of the sitter’s hair in Julia Margaret Cameron’s photograph of Margie Thackeray
Julia Margaret Cameron's photograph of Little Margie, commonly known as 'Christ Kind', or Christ Child, is also an example of Cameron's attraction to allegory in her work. Here, Cameron has recreated the Germanic Christkind - the infant Jesus who delivers presents to children on Christmas Eve. Margie Thackeray, the adopted granddaughter of William Makepeace Thackeray (and his great-niece), is pictured with her hair brushed out, almost to create a halo around her head, giving her an angelic appearance. Cameron's use of strong light catches the crown of the child's head, which is contrasted with the dark behind, again to create the perception of holiness.
"When Julia Margaret Cameron took up photography in 1864, she passionately embraced allegory as her preferred artistic impulse and arranged her sitters in poses taken from classical literature, the Bible, contemporary poetry, and recent history. She called these photographs her 'fancy subjects'…" Jeff Rosen
The South Kensington Museum (now known as the Victoria & Albert Museum) collected an extensive number of Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographs during her lifetime, even offering her the use of two rooms in the gallery in 1868. The museum’s website writes that this: “perhaps qualif[ies] her as our first artist in residence.”