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Arundel Castle

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Arundel Castle (photographed)

  • Date:

    1852-54 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Turner, Benjamin Brecknell, born 1815 - died 1894 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Calotype Paper negative (waxed after exposure)

  • Credit Line:

    The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case XRP, shelf 560

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815-1894) was one of the first British amateur photographers. Born in London, he became a ‘tallow-chandler’ and helped to run his family’s business, which sold wax-based products, such as candles and saddle soap. As noted in his perpetual diary Turner began using a camera on 10th of March 1849. He took out a license from William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the calotype negative-positive process, to practice this form of photography. Talbot had only introduced this process to the public in 1841. Put simply, the process involves coating a sheet of paper with silver chloride. After exposure to light, the areas of the paper hit by the light appear darker in tone. The resulting negative is then waxed to make it transparent. From this negative a contact print can be made by putting another sheet of photosensitised paper underneath the negative and leaving it in the sun to develop.
Turner’s paper negatives are among the earliest photographic negatives ever made. He worked on a large-scale; most of his negatives are around 30 x 40 cm. His images result from a long exposure time (up to thirty minutes), which means that many of the negatives do not show any figures or animals. As these are moving objects, they would not have remained still enough during the exposure to be recorded on the negative. As his subjects he often chose (ruined) churches and abbeys, castles and manors, the countryside, villages and cottages, trees and the seaside. Most of his pictures were taken during his travels around the English countryside. He seems to have been particularly fond of Worcestershire and the village of Bredicot, where his father-in-law owned Bredicot Court. Turner compiled 60 of these pictures in the album Photographic Views of Nature (of which the V&A owns the only copy). In 1857 Turner toured Holland and took some of the earliest photographs of Amsterdam.
For his photographic excursions the calotype process was ideal. Notwithstanding the arrival of the glass plate negative or wet collodion process, pioneered by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851, Turner still preferred paper negatives. In comparison to calotypes, the wet collodion process enables a higher resolution and shorter exposure times. However, paper was lighter to carry than glass and easier to handle, as a glass plate negative had to be exposed while still wet, and developed immediately. The paper fibres of the paper also produced a distinctive aesthetic when developing images: it makes them slightly rough, with a grainy texture that seems to be a good fit for Turner’s photographs of rural scenes.

Physical description

Black and white calotype paper negative of wall with stone-carved mural, two doors and several windows

Place of Origin

Arundel Castle (photographed)


1852-54 (photographed)


Turner, Benjamin Brecknell, born 1815 - died 1894 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Calotype Paper negative (waxed after exposure)


Height: 294 mm, Width: 393 mm

Object history note

Part of a collection of ca. 250 paper negatives that were given to the Royal Photographic Society by Turner’s family in the 1930’s.

Descriptive line

Calotype paper negative by Benjamin Brecknell Turner, 1852-54, Arundel Castle

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Barnes, Martin (with Daniel, Malcolm and Haworth-Booth, Mark). Benjamin Brecknell Turner: Rural England Through a Victorian Lens, London and New York: V&A Publications and Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
Brettel, Richard with Flukinger, Roy, Keeler, Nancy and Kilgore, Sydney Mallett. Paper and Light. The Calotype in France and Great Britain, 1839-1870. Boston and London: Kudos & Godine, in association with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Art Institute of Chicago, 1984.
Taylor, Roger (with a Dictionary of Calotypists by Larry J. Schaaf, in collaboration with Roger Taylor), Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007.


Photographic paper


Calotype; Photography


Photographs; The Royal Photographic Society; Children & Childhood; RPS Digitisation Project New


Royal Photographic Society Collection

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