Benjamin Brecknell Turner's 'Photographic Views from Nature'

Between 1852 and 1854, Benjamin Brecknell Turner, one of Britain's earliest amateur photographers, compiled 60 of his own photographs in what is believed to be a unique album, titled Photographic Views from Nature. It contains some of the earliest photography of rural England – country scenes, ruined castles and abbeys – in and around the counties of Worcestershire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Yorkshire, alongside the radical modern architecture of the Crystal Palace in London's Hyde Park. Like the watercolourists of the previous generation, Turner would travel the country in a horse-drawn cart seeking out rural locations and sites famed for romantic and picturesque pilgrimage.

The album, bound in green pigskin and stamped with gold decorative borders, might have been a sample book – a convenient method for presenting photographs for his own pleasure, and for showing to colleagues or potential exhibitors. Picturesque and patriotic, Photographic Views from Nature represents English history from a Victorian perspective – produced barely ten years after the invention of photography.

Explore highlights from the album in our slideshow below:

Header image:

Scotch Firs, Hawkhurst, photograph by Benjamin Brecknell Turner, albumen print from Calotype negative, 1852 – 54, England. Museum no. PH.59-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London