From 1856 onwards, Lady Hawarden set about practising amateur photography and very quickly mastered its technique. She chose her subjects from those around her : her estate in Dundrum, Ireland, where she took pictures of the peasants and, above all, her family. Her three elder daughters were the main actresses of the "living paintings" around 1862-1863, represented in romantic scenes, in their passage from childhood to adolescence.
Throughout her work, Lady Hawarden tried to exalt feminine beauty in its sensuality and its expressivity. Yet, in a characteristic way, she never gave her scenes precise titles. In spite of the clues given by the costumes or her models' gestures, the photographed scenes remain open to all sorts of interpretations, instead of fixing on any given theme. A resolutely modern photographer, Lady Hawarden was more interested in the treatment of light, mastering perfectly the many transparency effects, than in the narrative content of her photographs.