Girl, Ceylon

Julia Margaret Cameron1875 - 1879

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Dramatic lighting emphasizes this Ceylonese girl's physical features. Her shiny pearl necklace and white shirt stand out against her dark skin and bare feet. The child's legs are tucked close to her body, and her arms are folded protectively around her waist. Julia Margaret Cameron's tight framing confines the subject within a small space, making her slight unease more noticeable . But the full-figure composition also suggests a distance between photographer and subject that is both physical and cultural. Cameron made this photograph near the end of her life, when she lived in what is now Sri Lanka. This Tamil child may have been the daughter of a worker on her family's estate. Although Cameron had a benevolent attitude toward the Ceylonese, she supported the British Empire's civilizing mission in Asia, as was typical of her time. This picture appears to blend an ethnographic point of view with Cameron's more intimate approach to portraiture of family and friends.

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