19 A Look at Portraiture

Ella Bos

In our discussion of 19th century photography and the idea of “truth,” we discussed Julia Margaret Cameron’s work and if photography is a form of fine art. Like Cameron’s interpretations of art and literature, I am channeling the painting Girl with a Pearl Earring in this photo since it is a well-known piece of fine art. This is my interpretation though, and I have chosen to include what represents me, because it is my art. My decisions of what to wear and what background to include are all intentional. As a visual artist, I know the importance of composition and in my art nothing is left to chance, it is all planned out. I applied the same skills to my photo, another indication that photography is a form of fine art.

I also feel I am channeling a bit of Rosie the Riveter in J. Howard Miller’s We can do it! poster with my headband and empowered feeling. This may not come across clearly in the photo but that just shows that like art, photos can also be up to interpretation.

In Cameron’s poem On a Portrait, Cameron establishes a connection between “beauty” and a photographic portrait. The poem does this by directing the reader through the features of the face.1

In my photo, I aimed to capture the simple beauty that the Girl with a Pearl Earring radiates, as well as her gaze as Cameron does in her photos and poems. The gaze that both sitters share has a similar look but different meanings since they are in different contexts. Cameron does not just copy art, she aims to interpret through her own eyes and captures the feelings from them, which was my intention as well in this photograph.


1 Heather Bozant Withcer, “”Art of the Future”: Julia Margaret Cameron’s Poetry, Photography, and Pre-Raphaelitism,” Victorian Studies, 61 no. 2 (2019).

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