Photographs of Rural Victorian England by Benjamin Brecknell Turner
Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815-94) is known for his beautiful early photographs of rural England. He was one of the first, and remains one of the greatest, of all British photographers. Between 1852 and 1854 he compiled 60 of his photographs under the title Photographic Views from Nature. These superb vintage prints are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Aside from their intriguing historical and topographical value, Brecknell Turner’s photographs are also creative expressions in their own right and show the clarity, visual sophistication and sheer beauty of his view of rural England during the mid 19th century.
Brecknell Turner, one of the pioneers of early fine art photography, took up photography in 1849 when the invention was barely ten years old.
Brecknell Turner’s images have a warm, reddish-brown colour and a slightly grainy texture suitable for the rough-hewn qualities of his rustic subjects.
Such effects are reminiscent of the watercolours and prints from the period that influenced photographers. A tranquil stillness pervades Turner’s photographs, which were often made on bright, early spring or winter days with branches and rooflines outlined crisply against the sky.
Alongside country scenes, made in and around the counties of Worcestershire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Yorkshire, he also photographed the radical modern architecture of the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park.
Whether his subjects were ancient or modern the exuberance of Turner’s first years of photography shines through his pictures.
This content was originally written in association with the exhibition 'Rural England Through a Victorian Lens: Benjamin Brecknell Turner', on display at the V&A South Kensington from 5 April - 27 August 2001.