Cameron lived alone on the Isle of Wight from 1860–1875 while her husband tended to the family coffee plantations in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Her daughter gave her a camera to occupy her time while living in Freshwater and she became famous for her photographic style, particularly her portraits which mimicked works of art. Her images of Alice Liddell, the muse for Alice in Wonderland are haunting.
The museum holds a small collection of her photos and a collection of cameras that would interest any photography enthusiast. I however, am always looking for the folklore wherever I visit, those tidbits that tell you a lot about how people lived and their special relationships. Cameron had a large circle of intellectuals and artists staying in or near Freshwater and she was known for her impromptu parties and recitals. Indeed, there is a family tree of sorts hanging in one of the rooms showing her connection to people such as Robert Browning, Ellen Terry (actress), Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Charles Darwin — all the people that visited her regularly in Freshwater.
I was most intrigued by the special backdoor entrance at Dimbola, a gate just for Tennyson. The two collaborated on a photographic representation of his work, Idylls of the Kings, in 1874.
Literature from the museum stated they were dear friends. Cameron would walk the path along the rolling downs to Farringford at all hours, lighting her way at night using small torches. I imagine their collaborative project bringing the Arthurian legend in Tennyson’s Idylls of the Kings alive with photography was a profoundly satisfying experience for them both.
In 1875 Julia had to leave Freshwater to return with her husband to their coffee plantations in Ceylon. She took a coffin with her, never intending to return to her beloved Dimbola. It must have been heart-wrenching for Tennyson to see his good friend leave. She died four years later in Ceylon. Tennyson lived until 1892.