Julia Margaret Cameron is one of my favourite photographers, not least because hers is a wonderful story of talent discovered later in life and a woman brave enough to do things her own way.
Tennyson often referred to Cameron's sitters as her 'victims', for posing in those days involved sitting still for long periods of time, as one subject recollects:
“The studio I remember was very untidy and very uncomfortable. Mrs. Cameron put a crown on my head and posed me as the heroic queen…. The exposure began. A minute went over and I felt as if I must scream, another minute and the sensation was if my eyes were coming out of my head; a third and the back of my neck appeared to be afflicted with palsy; a fourth, and the crown, which was too large, began to slip down my forehead; a fifth – but here I utterly broke down, for Mr. Cameron, who was very aged, and had unconquerable fits of hilarity which always came in the wrong places, began to laugh audibly, and this was too much for my self possession, and I was obliged to join the dear old gentleman.”
There are lots of lovely books you can buy on Cameron's work, including my favourite, Julia Margaret Cameron's Women. You can see many of her portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, the V&A and at her family home on the Isle of Wight, Dimbola Lodge.
Once you become familiar with her work, you'll spot her influence in many photographers' work, particularly those who still choose to work with analogue film. I'm a huge fan of Ellen Rogers whose work has definite echoes of Cameron's aesthetics - she has some wonderful books of her photographs available on her website. (Coincidentally, and in keeping with Cameron's tradition of working within a circle of artists and writers, Ellen Rogers has shot Molly Crabapple, our last excellent women!)