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Benjamin Brecknell Turner (English, 1815-1894), the son of a candle maker, apprenticed to the family firm at age 16, traveled to Belgium, Switzerland, and Paris and other continental destinations before taking over the family business. After marrying in 1847 and starting a family in 1849, Turner took out a license from Talbot to practice calotype photography. Even as wet collodion on glass was becoming the predominant way of making negatives in the 1850s, Turner was one of a handful of photographers who stayed loyal to Talbot’s paper negatives. Turner became a master of the large paper negative, reserving the faster but less elegant wet collodion for making portraits in a studio above his London business. One of his earliest accomplishments, one which established his reputation, was a magnificent series of views of the Crystal Palace, made shortly before it was moved from Hyde Park in order to be re-erected at Sydenham. Throughout the 1850s Turner excelled in photographing rural scenes and ancient English architecture. In May 1857 he travelled to Amsterdam to produce a series of cityscapes. Turner participated in photographic society exhibitions around the country and also exhibited in the international exhibitions held in Paris where he received a bronze medal in 1855. A founding member of the Photographic Society of London, Turner later served as a vice president. Widely known and respected for his photographs which he continued to produce until the 1880s, B. B. Turner’s albumen prints were avidly collected by his contemporaries. Today his calotype negatives are equally sought after.

The exhibition Benjamin Brecknell Turner: Rural England Through a Victorian Lens was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 5 April – 27 August 2001, and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 15 January – 21 April 2002.

Recommended reading:
Martin Barnes, Benjamin Brecknell Turner: Rural England Through a Victorian Lens (London: V & A Publications, 2001)

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