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She started taking photographs as a side hobby in 1883 (Henry would never let her go pro with it), collecting pictures of her friends and family and the politicians that flowed through her house, the ones she wasn’t really supposed to talk to all that much.

For a socialite, she didn’t have much of a social network of her own.

She had no one to share her face with, and so she kept it to herself like a secret.

Maybe she is sitting at an outdoor cafe, her phone held out in front of her like a gilded hand mirror, a looking glass linked to an Instagram account.

Maybe she tilts her head one way and then another, smiling and smirking, pushing her hair around, defiantly staring into the lens, then coyly looking away. She flips through these images, appraising them, an editrix putting together the September issue of her face; she weighs each against the others, plays around with filters and lighting, and makes a final choice. Her selfie is off to have adventures without her, to meet the gazes of strangers she will never know. She has declared, in just a few clicks, that she deserves, in that moment, to be seen. Shot Two: Zoom in on a group of people watching this woman, one table over.

Maybe they are all men, deeply affronted by a woman looking at herself with longing, a woman who is both the see-er and the seen, the courier of her own message.

Maybe they are a group of chattering women, who have internalized a societal shame about taking pleasure in one’s face in public, who have learned to be good girls, to never let their self-regard come off as a threat.

I think about Julia Margaret Cameron, who got her first camera as a gift, in 1863, when she was 48 years old. We know this from her great-niece, Virginia Woolf, who wrote that Julia was an ugly duckling in a family full of cameo complexions; her nickname was “Talent,” where her sisters got to be called “Beauty.” Cameron became instantly obsessed with photography and dove into her second act.

Her daughter gave it to her, a toy to stave off the solitude of aging. She made hundreds of silver albumen prints, practicing and practicing in a kind of fever dream until she had created a unique method of applying a soft, dewy focus to her portraits of British celebrities.

We aren’t bound by her constraints now, with our ability flood our clouds with unlimited smirks, kissy pouts, tongue waggles, goofy winks, and come-hither stares.

When we can take endless shots from endless angles, we start to discover dimensions of ourselves we never even knew were there.

In their sitting room, Henry was king, while Clover played subservient wife, as women of the time were expected to do.